Monday, March 23, 2020

March 21-23, 2020 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Romans 8:1-4 “JESUS’ VICTORY GRANTS YOU FREEDOM!”


March 21-23, 2020

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Romans 8:1-4


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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Midweek Lent 3 March 11, 2020

Midweek 3                                                   Skirmishes
Hebrews 4:15 We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
I saw a picture of a  note in a child’s lunchbox from a mom recently.  It was in a plastic baggie full of carrots and it said, “Please don’t trade these for Twinkies.”  Very subtle- but the mom was doing a great job of trying to change a child’s mind about eating vegetables and if the child was a good salesperson maybe they could change a few minds too.  Changing people’s minds and beliefs has been going on for centuries. Our enemies the devil has been at work on that since Adam and Eve.  More than lunches, he fights battles against us. He hates us. He knows our sinful nature well enough that he knows how to use it well in his war plan to hurt us and turn us against our gracious God. He was successful against Adam and Eve in Eden and you know how too often, he has won those battles against all of us.  Little skirmishes- big skirmishes seems like the devil is always on the attack.  The horrible thing is that the enemy had a bigger target than just us—our hero. Our enemy targeted his attacks on our champion when our champion lived on earth, but Our warrior is victorious over his enemy through all of the skirmishes.
 “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”   One of my favorite commercials for this month is the Farmer’s Insurance commercial where a bear is in swim trunks and swim googles like it is the Olympics.  Then he jumps into the pool and you see that the bear is in someone’s back yard pool and he crashes through the side of the pool.  Then their slogan comes on with a “we are farmer’s….” We cover it all because we have seen it all.  Jesus had seen it all.  He covers us. He understands our every temptation because he faced them all.
Remember the big skirmish when the devil came to face off against Jesus in the wilderness right at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. The Holy Spirit led our Savior into the desert to be tempted. Jesus was the perfect substitute and he won where Adam and Eve had failed. Remember the Devil’s temptations that day.  “God isn’t taking care of you.  Tell these stones to become bread.”  “God has promised to take care of you, throw yourself down and let’s make God into a cartoon character trying to keep the spinning plates from falling to the ground.”  “Let’s forget about the suffering and dying that your Heavenly Father is talking about.  All you have to do is worship me.” The word diabolical comes from the name Matthew uses to describe the devil when he came to tempt Jesus in the desert: evil to the core. But Jesus maintains his bearings: God first. With the Scriptures, he answered all the temptations of Satan.  Jesus told Satan to jump back into his lake of fire. If the devil was smiling, he stopped and the dark anger boiling inside him.  Defeated, he gave up that day.   Jesus’ victory was our victory
I’m not sure if we know who said this, but it is true.  “Don’t give the devil a ride.  He will always want to take the reins- He will always try to drive.”   The devil’s battle plan shifted away from Jesus to include the high priest and Judas and Peter and eventually us. He pushed both the retired high priest Annas and his son Caiaphas out of the driver’s seat and drove them to plot to kill Jesus. Annas and Caiaphas betrayed their God and their purpose as high priests! The devil was driving them to rid the world of Jesus just as Satan wanted to do.
     The devil had some success in some of his plans.  Judas pushed Jesus away and Peter denied that he knew Jesus.  So, what is your worst battleground? What temptations are you struggling with? Where has Satan found you at your most vulnerable spot? In a national religious survey on temptation, people said they struggled most with worry; lack of self-control; lust and lying or cheating. Amazingly, when asked why they gave in to temptation, a few said they enjoyed it or that it got them away from their real life. But most said they didn’t know why.  Doesn’t that match up with our sinful nature?  When we were children and even as adults if we did something wrong and someone calls us on it how many times don’t we say, “I don’t know why I did it.” 
 I wonder if Satan is sometimes surprised at how successful his temptations are.  At any rate he is happy whenever he gets our mind away from Jesus and we have made the devil happy way too many times. 
But Jesus is a far different kind of high priest then Annas or Caiaphas or any of the Old Testament high priests.   Instead of having others prepare the sacrifice, he did it all himself. The ordinary person could not see the Holy Place where sacrifices were offered, the altar on which Jesus put his sacrifice was out in public view on the cross. Finally, our Great High Priest became the Lamb, the sacrifice! He did all this because loves us! He has room in His heart for you and me. 

He is one who can sympathize with our weakness.   Jesus doesn’t say, “I got you out of this once, next time you are on your own.”  Instead the Bible says that Jesus died once for all” and that “he breaks the power of canceled sin.”  Jesus doesn’t look at us struggling with temptations and troubles and say, “What are you being bothered by that for?  Are you really gonna be tempted by that? Man that is cinchy!”  Tempted in every way just as we are but was without sin. 

In the skirmishes you have with the devil-whether the guilt of skirmishes lost or looking for strength in the new skirmishes.  Remember Jesus.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”  Jesus won every skirmish for us.
Every minute during his life here on earth—in thought, word, and deed—Jesus kept the Ten Commandments perfectly, as well as everything else the Father wanted him to do. Jesus succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. Jesus remained pure throughout his entire life! ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’” (John 4:34). He loved to do his heavenly Father’s will!.
The good news is that he didn’t come to this earth just to see if he could keep his own commandments as God AND man. It wasn’t simply an exercise. Rather, he faced those daily battles and the final battle with the devil because none of us could handle the job. There would be no hope for this human race if someone who was pretty good— let’s say, someone like my grandma.  She was pretty good.  But she could never have represented the whole human race at God’s court.  She stood in church with me and confessed, “I a poor miserable sinner…  And if she could not stand before God because of sin. What chance would I have, or you?
Humanity needed a perfect someone who would be our hero, our substitute, our stand-in who could qualify to take our place at the justice bar of God. Jesus is that one. He did this for us, loving us completely. He gave us his obedience to his heavenly Father. We are hidden under the garment of our great warrior’s perfect life. His victory is ours so that we may stand forgiven and holy before God.
While we may not have had a bear jump into our swimming pool,  we struggle to in thankfulness to remain faithful to Jesus.  We lose so many times.  But our great hero has not left us alone to face the temptations and trials of our enemy.  When we face temptation, he has our back. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
When we are hurting, Jesus knows what we feel like. When we have problems, you know he experienced all kinds of them. He was despised by his enemies. He was rejected by his own people. People told evil lies about him. When we talk to him, we are not talking to some far-off God. He hears the words of our hearts and can certainly relate. He has seen it all and he covers us!  Amen