I woke up this morning, and literally, almost, could not physically get out of bed!
Yesterday, my husband and I cleaned the exterior of our cars. No… cleaned isn’t quite the right word. We scrubbed and polished and waxed and buffed our cars.
And let me tell you… my car needed it. As we started the project, I realized that I had not actually washed my car since I purchased it last spring.
I thought this might be an hour long little project. Brandon had other plans 😉
So five hours later, my arms feel like they are going to fall off from polishing out scratches and buffing on a shiny coat of wax… and then I decide there is still time left in the day to pull the weeds that have been accumulating in my flower beds.
This morning, I can barely move my fingers, much less hang on to anything… my back is stiff, my shoulders ache… man, this getting old stuff is for the birds! 😉
Sometimes we like to think about our bodies as a physical container. That the real “me” is somewhere inside all of this skin and bone.
In fact, this morning, I was ready to throw out the container all together if it would stop aching so much…. Bring on the robot bodies, or the heavenly places where I could float around without any join pain.
But you know what? That way of thinking is not true. Our bodies are incredibly important.
Our bodies are an integral part of who God created us to be. Our flesh and blood are not earthly things that we have to slough off and deny before we get into heaven…. No, according to scripture, these bodies go there with us…. In one form or another!
Our sloppy thinking around bodies comes from passages like the one we have this morning.
The Apostle Paul uses a Greek word that is often translated as “flesh” – sarx. So we get translations that say things like – “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the spirit.”
“those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
To our modern day ears, we think we know what that means at first hearing.
We know what flesh is… skin and bones… these things that ache and touch and feel and move around.
We know what spirit is… our souls, our minds, that of God that dwells within us.
So we think, bodies = bad, not pleasing to God…. Spirit=God, very pleasing to God.
BUT… sarx has more than one meaning.
While it can mean these skin and bones… it also is used to describe the lesser parts of ourselves…. Our animal nature, our cravings, the wretched parts of ourselves that keep grasping on to sin, no matter how many times we try to choose the right thing.
We talked about some of these last week: the craving for more, for status, for money, for food… all of those things that sometimes get the better of us and lead us down the pathways to sin.
THAT is what Paul is talking about here… not these good old, but sometimes achy bodies of ours.
In fact… our whole passage for this morning is about how we can have abundant life right here and right now in these very bodies!
How these bodies can be filled with strength and power and holiness…
How these bodies, these selves, can be Christ-like.
This passage for this morning, far from being a diatribe against our physical nature is a challenge to live up to the potential of what we can in fact DO.
Last week, the question was asked: What do we do when we joyfully accept the love and grace of God… but sin is right there next to us like the walls of a prison fence?
Our answer came at the very end… and it’s the answer to almost every single children’s sermon question… Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus, Live in Jesus, Look to Jesus. He is the one who has set us free and if we remember that, if we celebrate that, if we hang on to that, then sin doesn’t have the power to touch us anymore.
Now, that was a quick and easy answer. The kind of quick and easy answer that we might go home and stick on our fridge and forget about.
So we are going to unpack that answer a bit. We are going to look at all of it’s parts and pieces and explore, using this week’s passage from Romans explains HOW and WHY Jesus Christ frees us from sin and death. And we are going to do it through a simple little acronymn… LIFE.
First, we have the letter L – and L stands for LOVE. You see, God doesn’t just tell us not to sin…. He sends his own Son to deal with the problem of Sin.
Romans 8:3 translated by the Message: In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.
No one enters another person’s messy life unless they love them. And when Christ died for us, he took all the sins of the world with him on that cross. And the powers of sin and death thought they had won…
And here is why I think the resurrection means far more than the crucifixion. Because when Christ rose up, sin and death were defeated. They were conquered once and for all. They no longer have any power over Christ….
Which brings us to our second letter – I. And I stands for INCARNATION. Incarnation means living inside, taking on flesh. We often use it to describe the birth of Christ – when God came and dwelt among us. But it also applies here. Because you see, Jesus Christ didn’t just wipe his hands of the matter. He didn’t just defeat sin and death… no, he sends his Spirit to live in us, so that we, too, have his power and strength and righteousness.
Yes, Jesus Christ wants to share that power with you. He wants to live inside of you.
When the Spirit of God dwells within us, then life and peace and righteousness and power dwell within us. And that is an amazing thing.
Over and over again in scripture, we are reminded of how we access this resurrection power…. We have to believe in Jesus Christ.
So our third letter is F, for FAITH. Belief seems like a simple thing. A thought. A statement. “I believe in Jesus Christ,” isn’t such a difficult thing to say.
But this third letter reminds us that belief is a choice. Belief is an action. Belief is a lifestyle.
Belief in Jesus Christ means letting his spirit rule our hearts, instead of our lesser animal nature. It means choosing the Spirit of God rather than Sarx – our human desires.
Let’s think about this another way. When we live according to the flesh, sarx, we are selfish and self-centered people. Any decision we make is based on our whims, our desires, and sin easily creeps into that life. Living only according to our desires leads us down the paths of gluttony and pride, anger, greed, and death.
But when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are making the decision to live according to his Spirit. We exchange our desires for his. We exchange our self-centeredness for Christ-centeredness. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we make him the Lord of our life… rather than ourselves.
And you know what? The Spirit of Christ makes much better choices than my gut does. The Spirit of Christ has much more power than my own selfish will. And the Spirit of Christ is the only spirit that has the power to defeat the death that will eventually overcome this body.
Our last letter is E. And E stands for EMPOWERED. When we know about God’s love… when we let the Spirit be incarnate in our lives… when we have faith in the way of Jesus Christ… then we are empowered to be different.
We are set free from sin and death.
>We are set free to love God more than ourselves
We are set free to participate in God’s saving work in this world.
Because you know what? God so loved the world… not just you, not just me, not just this church, but the world.
And what we know from the life of Jesus and the testimony of scripture is that God seeks to save this whole world. God seeks to transform this whole world.
That seems like a mighty and daunting task. We are barely keeping sin at bay in our lives… how could we possibly help God to change the world?
Perhaps it’s not so much that we are helping God, but that we get out of the way enough for God to help us. When Christ dwells within us, we not only find the grace and strength and power to resist sin, but also the love and peace and power to do God’s will. When we let the Spirit of God in, the transformation of the world begins… in your life, in your family, in this community and from there it spreads to the world.
All of this is God, working in you. God loving you. God dwelling in you. God’s acts and words that we have faith in. God’s power filling you up.
In the Spirit, there is LIFE.