SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 18 October 2020
Sermon Text: Romans 8:5-17
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I. Once obliged to sin
II. No longer obliged to sin
III. Led by the Spirit of God
Christians know that they’re saved from sin. But not all of them understand what that means in their daily living. I mean, not all Christians recognise that their freedom in Jesus means freedom from sin’s demand, freedom from sin’s temptations. By the blood of Jesus, their debts to sin have been paid and they owe nothing to sin. But not all Christians realise this freedom Christ has given them through faith in Him. So, when they face sin’s temptations in their daily life, they often hang their heads and give in to sin, saying something like this, ‘I can’t resist it; after all, I’m in this body of sin!’
Today’s passage speaks to all who lack in understanding of what it means to be free in Jesus. This passage also speaks to those who understand the meaning of their freedom. For all who lack in understanding, it’s a message of great strength and comfort and for all who understand, it’s a message of refreshing joy and challenge for deepening their committed life to Jesus.
This freedom from sin’s demand is the second of the fourfold freedom in Jesus. Last week, we heard about the freedom we have from condemnation. So, let us follow the Holy Spirit as He opens up His word and teaches us about the meaning of our great and amazing freedom, that is, from sin’s demand.
I. ONCE OBLIGED TO SIN
Before we hear about our freedom, we first need to be reminded of the bondage we were under and the obligation to which we were shackled. Simply put, as the apostle says in v. 5, we lived according to the flesh and our minds were set on the things of the flesh. ‘Flesh’ means our ‘sinful nature.’ This means, in other words, sin dictated us and we were obliged to sin and its demands. When we were unbelieving sinners, we could not consider submitting to God’s law, let alone seeking to please God. This is what vs. 7 and 8 mean.
Consider it this way. When you did not know Jesus as your Saviour, when you did not believe in Him, you enjoyed all kinds of sins. I mean a life of all sorts and all levels of evil. You delighted in evil and approved them as you condoned evil in your eyes and heart.
Seeing anyone breaking the law, you used to think that was a ‘cool’ thing. Hearing anyone saying, ‘laws are meant to be broken,’ that sounded so perfect to your ears that no questions were ever raised from your heart. In fact, if anyone asked, ‘why so?’, he would’ve sounded foolish to you. There was no guideline set in your eyes and mind other than the fear of any of your behaviour being disclosed to the public or caught by the authority which was the only police line that limited your boundaries. If there were no such a limit, you could’ve ventured all things when you were one of the untouched by the Spirit of God, thus, living as an unsaved sinner in this fallen world.
In a word, you were dictated by sin and under the absolute and comprehensive obligation to sin at the time. You didn’t even know whether you were under such an exhaustive constraint. You followed what your sinful heart led you, and you simply did things to please your sinful heart. A well-known author pointed out the nature of this condition, saying this: ‘Men are fickle creatures, capable of kindness and compassion yet fascinated by the basest atrocities.’ Whatever seemed good to your eyes, you delighted in doing it – whether it was either kindness or harshness, either compassion or cruelty. All unsaved sinners have always done these things, being obliged to sin. Another famous author couldn’t agree more to this fact and said: ‘Inside the heart of man resides a beast, only tamed by the shackles of the day.’ I think, when he said, ‘only tamed by the shackles of the day,’ he means that the beast in every fallen man fills every day with nothing but its evil and waits for another day to fill with the same.
This is what v. 7 of our text passage means when it says that the mind of a sinner does not and cannot submit to God’s law. 1 Cor. 2:14 adds another description of this status, calling a sinner under such a condition as ‘the natural man,’ and this natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God because they are folly to his mind. That’s exactly what you and I once were as all unbelieving sinners at the present are.
II. NO LONGER OBLIGED TO SIN
Having given such a thorough description of our former status, the Apostle Paul reminds us of our present position in Jesus Christ. He speaks in v. 9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Your mind is set on the things of the Spirit of God and, because your mind is set on the things of the Spirit of God, you are after life and peace and you receive life and peace from God through Jesus. This means that no longer are you obliged to sin, no longer do you have any debt to sin or any duty to perform for sin.
Hearing this, you should be able to grasp the implication of this message, thus, understand the heart of God. He wants His saved children know that they are completely free from sin’s bondage and its demand. With His blood, Jesus severed the tie between you and sin, and brought you to His Father to live in Him as His adopted children. So, you cannot say something like, ‘I can’t resist sin’s temptation because I’m in this flesh of sin.’ Its evidence is the Holy Spirit indwelling you who bears witness with your spirit that you’re God’s children – v. 16 of our text passage is clear about this.
Let me put it this way. Before believing in Jesus, you had no idea of what you were doing with your mind and body. You had no idea of the meaning of your life, let alone its purpose. But after conversion, once you know that Jesus is your Saviour and Lord, and once you listen to His words, you’ve started considering various things of your life differently. You start saying grace before a meal. You begin considering the words you say with your mouth and their implications, considering your attitudes toward others. You reinterpret your relationship with people, starting from your family members then moving on to include your friends, your neighbours and the society. Your words and deeds have changed since, although it was unnoticeable in the beginning.
Such a change in you continues and suddenly you begin connecting all things of you and around you to God and Jesus. Doing things and saying words as well as embracing ideas in your mind are all brought to God through the name of Jesus in the forms of prayer and reflection of God’s word. As you are drawn to Jesus, your life starts revolving around Him and everything is understood by Him and everything is meaningful through Him.
Your sense of good and evil is also changed. Before believing in Christ, you were the only judge of good and evil and the only legislator of your own rules. Whatever seemed good to your eyes was good and whatever appeared to be bad to your mind was evil, as Angelina Jolie once said, ‘Anything that feels good could not possibly be bad.’ But, since your conversion, you begin looking at the world from someone else’s point of view and that is, the viewpoint of God revealed in the Scriptures. To your mind, men are no longer innocent but sinful beings and the world you live in is no longer a ‘mother nature’ but God’s creation that groans for the evil of the present age and waits with eager longing for God’s final redemption. Moreover, keeping the law of God has become the matter of heart and soul rather than of a mere act of your hands and feet. So, although God is invisible, you know His omni-presence and that comforts you. Although God is silent, you hear His voice which becomes the bright guiding light to your path.
Such is a life of every Christian; such is the path all true believers of Jesus pass through. And this is the clear proof of your freedom from sin and its obligation. This proves that sin’s power has been completely broken and removed from you.
So, if you say to yourself, ‘I can’t resist sin’s temptation because I’m in this sinful flesh,’ you’re wrong! In these chapters of Romans, I mean, chs. from 6 to 8, how many times has the Apostle Paul repeated this message, that is, ‘you’re freed from sin and its bondage, thus, from its demands as well as from its damnation? Numerous times! I can say that the whole of chs. 6-8 are on this single message of your freedom in Jesus!
You and I are free in Jesus, and we owe nothing to sin and sin has no claim, no power over us because of Christ.
III. LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
But, in reality, it doesn’t seem to be true because you feel constantly that you’re still under the power of sin and you feel powerless toward sin’s temptations. In your spirit, you do believe that you’re free and sin has no power to oblige you to anything. But in your hands and feet and mouth, and even your mind in reality seem to be shackled by sin’s demands. And you often are confused with this discrepancy.
So, the apostle answers to your confusion. The answer is that you must be led by the Spirit of God. Putting it in other words, you must let the Spirit lead you in all things. Still in another word, the Spirit of God must have you! The Spirit must have full control over you!
Your confusion between ‘your declared freedom in Jesus’ and ‘your feeling powerless toward sin in reality’ comes from your partial subordination to the Spirit. In some areas of your life you let the Holy Spirit lead you and you follow Him joyfully. But in some other areas, you don’t let the Spirit have the control, but you hold onto it. Usually, if not always, such is the foothold for the devil and such is the opportunity you give to the devil for disruption of the works of the Spirit of God in you.
The apostle warns you not to do this and urges you to let the Holy Spirit have all of you. To explain its reason further, the apostle defines you and all Christians as ‘debtors’ in v. 12. You’re debtors to the Spirit of God and all Christians are debtors to the Spirit. Like human debtors are obliged to let the lender lead and provide guidance, so, you and I as the debtors to the Spirit should let the Holy Spirit lead and guide us. V. 13 points this out by saying, “(you should) put to death the deeds of the body.” Simply put, let the Holy Spirit have you; let the Spirit have the full control over your life.
In a Lord’s Day morning, to give you an idea of practical daily example, instead of you deciding anything for you, let the Spirit of God decide and give you His guidance. Once you have His guidance, simply follow it. When you need to decide at work or home, let the Holy Spirit take control and you follow His lead. The Holy Spirit will always decide in accordance with His word in the Scriptures and guide you accordingly. Occasionally than often, you’d find the Spirit’s lead strange and awkward, but simple and diligent and joyful obedience to His guidance will always bring a good and blessed outcome.
The Spirit of God must have you and must be in charge of all areas of your life. The more He takes control in your life, the less will you see discrepancy between your declared freedom from sin and your feeling powerless to sin’s temptations. The apostle explains this point further in vs. 14-17 with the fact that we’re sons of God and coheirs with Christ. Hear what he means, saying this in v. 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” He means that if you’re children of God, you are led by the Spirit of God. So, let the Spirit have you!
We’re freed from judgment, thus, no condemnation for all who are in Christ Jesus. This is the message we heard last Lord’s Day from Rom. 8:1-4. What we hear from the next thirteen verses is about our freedom from sin’s demand. No obligation is there for us toward sin.
You and I are debtors to the Spirit of God, obliged to let Him have us. Instead of taking control over yourself, let the Holy Spirit be your Guide and Captain. Then, enjoy the blessed fruit the Holy Spirit brings to you in your obedience, that is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control which can never be obtained without letting the Spirit take full control over your life. ***