March 21-23, 2020
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Romans 8:1-4
“JESUS’ VICTORY GRANTS YOU FREEDOM!”
Romans 8:1-4 (EHV) “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3Indeed, what the law was unable to do, because it was weakened by the flesh, God did, when he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin. God condemned sin in his flesh, 4so that the righteous decree of the law would be fully satisfied in us who are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.”
So, who do you have going all the way to the Final Four in your tournament brackets? March Madness is upon us and….oh, wait, that’s right we have a different kind of March Madness we are dealing with—all the changes because of the coronavirus. I feel for all of you for whom the NCAA tournament was something to look forward to. Many have their favorite team you were pulling for. But I have a question for you. What would their victory really have gotten you? Let’s say the Badgers won. Beyond that moment of absolute elation what difference would it make long term? Here’s a little test. Who won the NCAA championship 6 years ago? One of the things the consequences of the coronavirus have reminded us is that sports is entertainment. Nothing more. Nothing less. The victories our teams win don’t matter when it comes to things like life and death.
There is a victory that was won that does matter. The victory won by Jesus Christ. As contagious as the coronavirus is it is nothing compared to the contagion of sin. We are all infected. As many deaths as Covid 19 has or will cause it cannot hold a candle to sin which brought death to all. No worries! God sent Jesus. His victory does mean something for you. It has lasting effects on your life now and your eternal future. Let’s see how.
To do that we actually need to back up in our Bibles just a little bit. If you have yours open go back Romans chapter 7. A quick glance will tell you that is where the Apostle Paul describes an ongoing struggle that we are all familiar with, the fight against sin. This is how he described it. (Romans 7: 18-19) “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Surely he was describing his fight with his pet sins. You and I have our own with improper sexual thoughts, lying, alcohol abuse, a potty mouth, anger issues, doubts, fears, and worries or fill in the blank. Why this bothered Paul so and why it should bother us is we know God’s righteous decrees. We know He deserves perfectly obedient children. But we can’t deliver. That helps you understand how Paul ended Romans chapter 7. (Romans 7:24-25) “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I’m wretched. Who will rescue me? Thanks be to God for Jesus. That helps us understand the last verses for today’s sermon text. “Indeed, what the law was unable to do, because it was weakened by the flesh, God did, when he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin. God condemned sin in his flesh, 4so that the righteous decree of the law would be fully satisfied in us who are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.” What the law was unable to do was to make us right with God. Why was it unable? Because of the sinful nature, “the flesh.” There is just no way for imperfect people to live perfectly. We can try as hard as we want and we will fail. So God provided a work around. His own Son, Jesus, became human. He dealt with sin. As Jesus hung on the cross as the world’s one and only sinner God condemned sin in Him. Sin’s offense was paid for in full. Jesus’ perfect holy living was given to us through faith in him. The righteous decree of the law that people live perfectly is satisfied for us who live according to spirit. That means who trust in Jesus and have that new nature, the new creation. That means for those who aren’t thinking they get right with God by what they do but by what Jesus has done. That’s the victory that Jesus won.
Now for all of us who can’t remember who won March Madness 6 years ago or 14 years ago, for all of us who understand that when it comes to the victories won by the sports teams we love the only one that really matters is the next one, how does Jesus’ victory some 2000 years ago affect me? Brothers, sisters, freedom! Freedom first of all from condemnation. “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation. Do you realize how often and how easily we label people? Many times it can be mostly harmless. So we’ll call someone “the tall guy” or like people call me “the right size guy.” Labels. Oftentimes they can start to hurt. “Dummy. Why can’t you do anything right?” The most spiritually damaging though are the labels we have earned for ourselves through our sin. Adulterer. Liar. Drunk. Addict. Cheater. Pornophile. Narcissist. The list can go on and on because sin goes on and on. Probably the most damaging labels are the ones we put on ourselves because we know better than others how bad we really are. “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Did you hear that? Let me read it again. No condemnation! In Christ you have no label, more specifically, no sinful label. I’m reminded of one of our sisters in Christ who got to go to heaven almost a year ago. Pat Bauknecht. I still remember the first time in Bible Class when she came up to me and said she’d like to make an announcement in class. “Sure,” I said. “What for?” “Well today I am X years sober.” I was a little taken aback. Many people do not broadcast that they once had a problem or are still having one. On another occasion when I asked her about it she said, “I’m not a recovering alcoholic. I’m a Christian.” Do you see? No condemnation! Your sins of past or present do not define you. Jesus does. You are a follower of Christ. His victory gives you freedom. Sins of the past do not control you either. Temptations may still come. There may be falls. But connected to Christ there will be little victories as well.
Jesus’ victory gives you freedom from condemnation and more. “For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” OK, let’s talk coronavirus. It’s definitely changing the way we live our lives with school closings and social distancing and disrupted plans and economies. Why? Fear. Fear of what, getting sick? That’s happening all the time. No, it is the fear of death. A couple of weeks ago before things ramped up here in the good old USA I was watching a news broadcast. By video they were interviewing an elderly man in Italy when it was fast becoming the epicenter of the pandemic. They asked him, “Are you afraid of getting the coronavirus?” He replied. “Yes, of course I am!” “Why?” was the necessary follow up question. He replied. “I’m afraid of dying. We’re all afraid of dying!” That struck me. Does it strike you? Are you afraid of dying? You may be but you don’t have to be. I’m not afraid of dying. I can easily come up with the names of several members who are not afraid of dying at all but are praying for it. I know that because they have told me so as they are at a point in their life when they don’t know what God’s purpose for them is.
Now don’t get me wrong. We should not take lightly what our government officials are telling us. Nor should we ignore precautions we are asked to take. We never have the right to take our life in our own hands. God gives life. God takes away. But we do not have to be afraid of dying because Jesus’ victory frees us from the fearing what happens after death. End of earthly life when it comes, and it will come one way or the other, is the beginning of real life with God. When our bodies die we who are in Christ get to be with Him in heaven and see Him face to face. We have joy and we have happiness. We get to be reunited with loved ones who have died in the Lord before us. That’s nothing to fear. I don’t know where this will all go. I don’t know what will happen next. I do know that God knows and He has brought His people through worse trials than this. I do know that He is in control. I do know He will work this for good. Jesus’ victory grants your freedom, freedom from fear.
And so brothers and sisters, at the risk of sounding a little trite in borrowing from a movie several years ago, I close with this encouragement. Coronavirus may change your life, it may even take your life, but it can never take your freedom--in Jesus. Amen.