April 3, 2011: God’s Straight Talk Express

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for providing us with the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Thank You for giving up Your life to make us right with God and to take away any lasting fears about judgment day. Thank You for giving Your life as our ransom. And thank You for thereby filling us with hopeful joy. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO RANSOMED US FROM ALL EVIL AND THE ANXIETY THAT COMES WITH IT!

Text: Romans 8: 1-10

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

A few years back, during one of the Presidential election cycles, one candidate toured New Hampshire in his bus which he labeled: The Straight Talk Express. It’s a catchy title, isn’t it? Amid all the lies, half-truths, and glossy spin that we hear each day, everyone longs for some straight talk. Well, God, through St. Paul, provides some straight talk to us about how we stand before Him right now. So, let’s examine this portion of Romans which could well be titled:

GOD’S STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS

I

You and I have two things we can call our own in this life. We have our bodies and we have our souls, or our spirit. As long as we’re alive on this earth, they remain joined together—you cannot really divorce one from the other. The body influences the spirit, and our spirit influences our body. If the body is wracked by pain, our inner spirit also grieves and suffers. If our spirit is uplifted and elated, our bodies exhibit a spring in our step.

We see this interaction played out even in our Savior Jesus Christ. Think of Him in Gethsemane, suffering over the enormity of His upcoming death. Matthew tells us that toward the beginning of Christ’s prayer He said: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Elsewhere we’re told that His body reacted to this inner anguish by sweating out great drops of blood. The point is: you cannot divorce the body from the spirit. In Jesus, as in each of us, they are intertwined. In fact, not even death can ultimately separate them as we see in Christ’s bodily resurrection, and as we will see in our own. And now because of God’s Son ransoming our total selves on the cross, and His Father accepting that ransom for us, St. Paul writes this straight talk: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Condemnation is the negative side of judgment. It is punishment. It is pain. It is inner anxiety. It is shame. It is the breaking of our bodies and our spirits. But, for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who embrace Him in faith, there is now NO condemnation! Jesus has set us free from all of the above—not only here in time but for all eternity! The eternal Judge has said to each of you: “Not Guilty! Acquitted because My Son, Jesus was declared guilty in your place and has suffered all the punishment for all the sinners who have or will ever inhabit this earth.—This is His and My gift to each of you!”

To be sure, most sinners thoughtlessly throw this gift of grace away. Most think that such a loving God is merely hype and preposterous spin. To them it is a fairy tale. But to those who embrace this awesome truth in faith, to those who trust the One extending the gift, in short, to those who are “in Christ”—”no condemnation” is a game changer for both their body and their soul!

II

God is not happy with chaos. Chaos brings tremendous pain and sadness. That’s why God set down rules, or principles, to govern His creation. And those rules are “not meant to be broken” unless we wish to feel pain and anxiety. So, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit (the Holy One) of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Christ fulfilled and kept all of God’s Laws in our place.) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

The total man, Jesus Christ, became our perfect offering to God. He assumed our place and gave Himself as a ransom for many. He became the focal point for all physical pain and all spiritual/emotional pain that we will ever feel in this life. And now, when we embrace Him our spirit is set free and it funnels that freedom into our bodies too. We can now live and act as the new creations that Christ sought to achieve in us.

Not sure whether this really describes you today? Are you anxious in spirit? Are you troubled about past sins? Are you feeling terribly guilty that you haven’t done enough to satisfy the perfect and Holy God? Paul also uses straight talk to address such situations. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Folks, that is a scary description of humans who don’t know Christ. It’s a scary description of us when we look away from Christ and let fear grip our souls and paralyze our bodies into inaction.

But, once again, Paul comes with more straight talk which pulls us out of such inner anxiousness. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit (the Holy Spirit, God the Eternal Comforter), if the Spirit of God lives in you.—And He does by faith!—And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

Every one of us experiences times of anxiety and inner pain. Every one of us sometimes fears that our sinful flesh has gained control over our soul and is in the process of divorcing us from Christ. Well, let me tell you something: If you fear such things, that’s very, very good! It means the spark of faith still resides in you. It means Christ is still inside fighting for you. And it also means that He will give you the power and strength to resist all evil! Do so by focusing on the cross, on no condemnation, on His eternal love and forgiveness for you. Employ those gifts by asking the Holy Spirit to pour them out mightily upon you. And then, even if you body lets you down at times, your spirit—buoyed up by the Holy Spirit—will see you through into that blessed state of lasting, God made, peace. Amen