Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for July 16, 2023 – Proper 10

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5034 | Death is Short
Greg Williams

The older I get the more I can relate to the statement, “Life is short!” It seems it was just yesterday I was a child in my parents’ home. Now if there is a child in my home, it is probably one of our grandchildren. Amazing!

It’s a sobering point of reflection to know that most likely, I have fewer days to live ahead of me than the ones I lived behind me. Yes, life is short.

However, for an episode of “Speaking of Life,” this is starting to sound a bit morbid. So, in thinking of the phrase “Life is short” from a Christian perspective, maybe we should change it to say, “Death is short.” After all, that is more accurate to our situation and our theology. As soon as we are conceived in the womb, we begin our inevitable march to the tomb. And, compared to the eternal life waiting for us beyond that point, it is a short march whether it be one year or a hundred years.

This is the biblical way to look at our present time when the clock and calendar seem to speed up. We don’t have to live frantic and fearful lives as if life is short. We can live each day fully in the peace and hope that comes to us in God’s word of resurrection life. That Word has come to us in the life and death of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who took upon himself our march of death from the womb to the tomb and gave death a proper burial in the end. Death no longer has the final word on our lives, God’s word to us in Jesus does.

On that basis, we can live each day, no matter how dark the shadow of death may appear, trusting and being renewed to joyful life by God’s faithful word to us. Here is a portion of Psalm 119 that pictures this orientation in our short march on this side of the grave.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.”

Psalm 119:105-112 (NRSV)

He does give us life – he gives us eternal life. It is in this life that his decrees and statutes give us joy – forever. Thanks to God’s grace, the older I get, the more I realize, “death is short,” and eternity with Christ is forever.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 119:105-112 • Genesis 25:19-34 • Romans 8:1-11 • Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

This week’s theme is life in the Word. The call to worship Psalm expresses confidence in God’s word even during life’s severe afflictions. The Old Testament reading from Genesis recounts the birth and struggle of Jacob and Esau and of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob out of fear of death. The epistolary text from Romans strikes a confident note where the fear of condemnation is removed in Christ. The Gospel reading from Matthew includes Jesus’ Parable of the Sower dealing with people’s response to the word of the kingdom.

In Christ

Romans 8:1-11 (ESV)

During this season of Ordinary Time, we have been exploring what it means to live as a Christ follower. We have revisited many passages where Jesus calls his disciples, instructs his disciples, sends them out and commissions them. The life of a disciple is not a small calling, and it is certainly not a boring or passive one. Our passage today may give us some clues as to why this is. Romans 8:1-11 is a familiar passage to many, especially the first verse which is loaded with good news. Other portions of the passage have unfortunately left many with some confusion regarding how we understand the difference between living life in the flesh and living life in the Spirit. Hopefully we can clear up some of that confusion along the way. But even if we don’t, we can certainly soak up some astoundingly good news from the first verse. So, let’s begin there.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

This is a very strong statement as written, but the Greek packs even more of a punch. In Greek, the most important words are placed at the beginning of a phrase. Here the very first word is “no.” Paul wants to be emphatic and bold about the truth he is proclaiming. Perhaps Paul knows our strong tendency to feel condemned and to condemn others.

If condemnation was a rock, we would all probably have a bag full of them. Not to mention a handful in our hands. When we see God as a distant angry god who condemns us, we will walk around carrying rocks of condemnation that weigh us down. In addition to being weighed down we are also tempted to hurl our rocks of condemnation at others. As we tightly quench a rock in our fist, we find that we are unable to receive the grace God gives. But may the Spirit speak to us today through this one little verse that God in no way carries rocks of condemnation around. He does not throw rocks at us, not even a pebble of condemnation. He has on the other hand, sent us his Son, Jesus Christ who is our Rock of Salvation. This Rock does not condemn us; rather, as we will see later, he condemns all that condemns us.

As a follower of Jesus, are there ever times when you feel you have been hit by the cutting and bruising stone of condemnation? If so, this verse tells us unequivocally that neither Jesus nor his Father threw it. Perhaps it came from the hands of a friend or family member—those most often hurt the most. Or perhaps you even got pelted by a weighted down preacher. Unfortunately, the pulpit at times gives one a perceived high ground for stone throwing. Or, more common, maybe the stone was let loose from your own sling only to come back and smack you in the head like a boomerang. Self-condemnation is deceptively punishing. Wherever the source of our condemnation, we need to take these words seriously, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That means, that if there is no condemnation in Jesus, there is no condemnation.

Jesus is the one who determines reality, not our closest family members or friend, not other authority figures, and certainly not ourselves. Condemnation doesn’t exist for you. That means that when others hurl it your way, they are hurling a lie. It’s an empty rock weighing less than a feather. In this way, Jesus becomes our shield that repels any rocks of condemnation hurled our way.

This is a good scripture to quote when someone attempts to hit you with a condemning stone. You don’t have to receive the blow of something that doesn’t exist. There is no condemnation. And when you are tempted to condemn yourself, you cannot justify your self-condemnation by arguing your case from the evidence of your sins. All that evidence has been nailed to a cross and put to death. Your case in the Father’s courtroom is dead on arrival and will not be heard. So, no need to rehearse it over and over on the way. Paul will make that clear as well. At this point I can hear the protest welling up. Are you saying that it’s OK to sin then? Paul had to deal with that protest as well and he again offers an emphatic “NO!” That question misses the point which Paul will elaborate on in the next few verses.

But before we get there, we should note two additional qualifiers of this extremely good news. First, there is a qualifying “when.” When will this be that there is no condemnation? Paul again is quite forceful with “now.” We don’t have to wait till we overcome all our sins. We don’t have to wait till Jesus returns. This is a reality that is given to us right now. That’s a hard time stamp to accept when we look at how many times we have been deserving of condemnation. The second qualifier is, who does this apply to? The answer is, “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is Paul’s favorite phrase for speaking of those who put their faith in Jesus, receiving the new life he has for them. It is his way of making the supreme distinction between those who are disciples and those who are not: their union in Christ. That’s where the new life that Paul is going to talk about is found and where we live in the reality where condemnation does not exist.

So, with that, we can move on to the next few verses where Paul is going to talk about the new life believers are brought into. Beware of some confusing and challenging language.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4 ESV)

The new life Paul speaks of that we have “in Christ” is a life of freedom. We are set free in Christ. And we are told that this is something “God has done,” so it is a freedom given by grace. We do not earn it in any way. We first see that we are set free from something, namely, “from the law of sin and death.” The two enemies of sin and death no longer have the final say over us. And we are told exactly why.

Jesus was sent to take on all our sin and its penalty of death in order to condemn sin itself. Nice play of words by Paul there. We are not condemned, sin is. So, we are now free from it. But not only are we set free from something; we are set free for something. As Paul puts it, we are set free “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The word “walk” is meant to indicate a way of life. In Christ, we are set free from sin to live a righteous life. What is the point of being freed from sin if we do not walk in that freedom to live in righteousness? That answers the question about being free to sin on account that there is no condemnation. That would be equivalent to saying we are free to put ourselves in prison. That’s not a description of freedom, but a description of insanity.

Now that Paul has spent some time talking about the new life we have in Christ, he is going to reference the old life we have been delivered from.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For 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. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

In contrasting the old life with the new life, some confusion has slipped into our understanding of what Paul is saying. He is not speaking of two realities that are warring within us. Rather, he is talking about two different mindsets. The old mindset is focused on the “flesh” and the new mindset is focused on the “Spirit.” And for Paul, the word “flesh” refers to sinful flesh, not our physical bodies. Living in the “flesh” means we are misusing our bodies, but it is not a renunciation of the body itself. So, a mindset focused on the “flesh” is not interested in pleasing God. Therefore Paul can say, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In contrast, those who have set their minds on the Spirit are led into “life and peace.” That’s the life we have “in Christ.”

Now Paul will conclude with another emphatic statement of reality for those who are in Christ.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)

With no questions asked and without reservation, Paul announces to the church in Rome, and to us today, the assurance that we are “not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” The implication is obvious. Because we are those who belong to Christ, Paul is telling us to live in our true identity. To live as if we do not belong to Christ is to forget who we are and to live a lie. And we do this often. So, we need constant reminders of who we are, which is exactly what Paul is giving the believers in Rome – Jew and Gentile alike. He is reminding them of what it means to be in Christ, to belong to him and to his Father.

This is the life we are made for, and by God’s grace we have entered it and can start living it out. And as we live out of our true identity in him, we become a witness to others that they too are invited into this life of no condemnation, a life full of peace and righteousness.

Paul also leaves us with the hope that even our physical bodies, which have suffered at the hands of sin and death, will be raised to new life as well. In Christ, we are redeemed and made whole. There will be no fracture between our mind and body. It will all consist of the same walk, going in the same direction, not being pulled at the seams. There is a lot to meditate on in these passages. We will be hard pressed to even scratch the surface of what this new life in Christ will fully entail. But for certain, we will not be disappointed.

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W3

Video unavailable (video not checked).

July 16 — Proper 10 of Ordinary Time
Romans 8:1-11, “In Step With the Spirit”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on SpotifyGoogle Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W3

Anthony: Let’s move on to our next passage of the month. It’s Romans 8:1-11. It’s a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 10 in Ordinary Time, which is July the 16th.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

If God the Father didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn people, I’m guessing he’s not sending us as his ambassadors to condemn people. Tell us why “no condemnation” is ridiculously good news.

Gavin: It really is, Anthony. It really is such ridiculously good news. And the reality of sin is that we would all be condemned. And so often we have a kind of narrow view of sin or misunderstand sin in many ways. Because sin isn’t just a problem that we have as individuals, but we live in a world that’s corrupted by sin.

And sin isn’t the problem, the full sense of the problem, in that when we try and live an ethical life, it’s not just the bad column we have, but we are called to do good works. And when we miss opportunities to do good works, then that creates a challenge for us as well.

But the whole concept of no condemnation is really moving to a completely different system, and it’s the system of grace. And it’s really this whole transformation in the way that we understand the world. It’s moving from looking where everything condemns us to life, to grace, to understanding that the world works in a different way.

And I think really to understand that it’s to understand who God is and how he can do this for us. Because so much of the way that the world works even today is an eye for an eye. This idea that when you make a mistake, you need to be punished, you need to be condemned for that mistake.

And part of the problem that we have as human beings is some of the mistakes we make, we just don’t have the power within us to restore. But of course, God does have the power to restore any mistake that we make. If somebody loses their eye, that’s beyond our power to do something about. But it’s not beyond God’s power.

God has the ability to restore things in a way that’s beyond what we can. And this is really how we move into that different system, that system of grace. And it’s why no condemnation is such good news, because it’s transformational to those who understand that they are not condemned.

And this is why, when you talked about this, Jesus isn’t sending us out into the world to condemn others because the reality is he’s taking us out of this system of condemnation completely. He’s moving us into this system of grace, and so we’re not sent out to condemn people.

Instead, we are sent out to show grace to people. It’s a completely different way of looking at life that we see. And this is what Paul was talking about in this passage. He’s talking about a different way of living that we have been given in Jesus Christ, how we now have the Spirit of life as opposed to the law of sin and death.

And of course, life comes from God. God is the one who gives us life. And this is why it’s such ridiculously good news, as you put it, no condemnation in Jesus Christ.

Anthony: It is a different kind of system, isn’t it? We see in Father, Son, and Spirit, a restorative justice, not a retributive one.

And we do want people to pay, like you mentioned, and that even in the Psalms some of the cries to God is when are you going to smite these people that are after me? But thanks be to God that he does restore.

Help us to exegete verses 5-8. How do we rightly talk about living according to the Spirit? How do we know if we’re doing it?

Gavin: As Christians we read passages like this in Romans 8, and obviously we want to be living according to the Spirit. And it can be sometimes challenging when we read Paul’s words, to understand how to put them in context in our lives.

And I think it’s important to understand a couple of things as we look through versus 5-9. As we look at these, this section of scripture, one of the things that I think we need to be clear on is Paul is not really contrasting the physical with the spiritual.

That’s not the contrast he’s talking about when he is talking about flesh. He’s talking about our sinful nature in many ways. It’s not saying that our physical bodies are the problem and that our spirit is not. That’s not the contrast, but rather it’s really reflecting how we choose to live our lives, what we choose to have as our focus and as our priorities.

And this is what he’s talking about when he’s encouraging us in this section and in many ways, I think, really what he’s describing in these verses is repentance. What he’s describing is a turning away from the ways of our previous life, the ways of our previous sinful nature, and a turning to God, to embracing what God is doing in our lives, what God is doing in the world, what we are choosing to focus upon.

There’s that beautiful hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

And this is really what Paul is talking about here for us to no longer dwell on the previous things in our life. But instead to focus on the things of the Spirit, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

It’s important that we understand the now and not yet of this verse. Because sometimes as Christians we can struggle with that because both elements are clearly there. And Paul here is talking in this sense, we can’t take this as a now. The reality is that we do still struggle with sin. We still struggle with our sinful nature, and Paul isn’t ignoring the fact that we struggle with our sinful nature. But rather he’s encouraging us to also reflect on the not yet, reflect that there is going to be a time when sin is behind us.

And what we need to do now is to have this repentance, to have this turning towards God, turning towards the things of God, turning towards the things of the Spirit. And this is what he’s talking about in this passage. It’s repentance at its very heart.

When we talk about living according to the Spirit, it’s talking about a turning to God. It’s a talking about our priorities and choosing how we affect our priorities. And it’s really interesting that in the scientific world, there’s increasing evidence that what we choose to focus on actually affects the wiring of our brain itself. And here Paul in many ways was well ahead of the science, in this sense, in telling us that if we focus on the right things, if we focus on the work of the Spirit, then we will see the change that we want as Christians. We’ll see a life of repentance take place.

Anthony: You made me think of a quote I read from Leslie Negan that we are shaped by what we attend to, and I think that’s what you were speaking to.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Can you relate to the statement, “Life is short?”
  • What did you think about Greg’s new phrase, “Death is short?” as being a more biblical description of our lives.
  • Greg stated that “Death no longer has the final word on our lives; God’s word to us in Jesus does.” How might this change the way we live day to day? What would life look like if we didn’t fear death?

From the Sermon

  • Can you think of examples of times you felt condemnation? Where does condemnation most often come from for you; family, friends, authority figures, church leaders, yourself, or others you can think of?
  • Discuss the image of condemnation being rocks. What is the result of holding on to condemnation? What does it say about us when we throw our rocks of condemnation at others?
  • Do you find it hard to believe Paul’s emphatic statement that there is no condemnation in Christ? If so, explain why.
  • According to the passage, when is there no condemnation? Discuss the significance of the answer.
  • According to the passage, for whom is there no condemnation? Discuss the significance of the answer.
  • Discuss the life of freedom as it is seen in Paul’s description of the new life we have in Christ. What are we freed from and what are we freed for?
  • What is the difference between the word “flesh” and the word “body” as Paul is using it?
  • In what ways can we remind one another of who we are in Christ so we can live it out in our lives?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy