Dear Christian friends,
A first grade teacher expected a class of Kindergarteners to know their colors, letters and numbers. There was a problem, however. The Kindergarten teacher didn’t know that was what she was supposed to do. She thought Kindergarten was for babysitting. The first grade teacher was on the spot. She has to spend a month or two on letter identification and sounds; she must teach numbers – even colors. She has to catch the first graders up to where they need to be. What she needs to teach them needs to build on what the kindergarten teacher was supposed to teach them. She hopes that can happen, but it might take a couple of years to get them caught up.
As we grow, we need to grow up mentally, physically and spiritually. Learning simple numbers and adding them, subtracting them, multiplying and dividing them will turn into algebra and trigonometry.
So it is with Bible knowledge. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Those meaty Bible teachings are certainly there. Peter wrote about teachings of the apostle Paul, “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Paul didn’t write for the Kindergarten class in Sunday School. He was good for those who were a little longer along in faith. I classify today’s reading from Romans along those lines. His ultimate message is clear and plain – “Saved!” He tells us 1) It’s a fact ;) What we are 2) Saved from; 3) Saved for.
Saved! It is a fact. Orlando is a center for the Seventh Day Adventists. The hospital system in Orlando is run by the Seventh Day Adventists. There is a huge prep school in the metro Orlando area. Their theology teaches that no one can ever be certain of eternal life. A Seventh Day Adventist pastor showed up at my door troubled by the theology. He read I John 5: 13 where John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” He realized God doesn’t want us guessing. What Paul writes in Romans says it too. He doesn’t want us just crossing our fingers. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul begins by saying “therefore.” When there is a therefore you need to look at what was just said because a conclusion is being made. So what was said before this?
Chapter 7 contains thoughts about our spiritual struggle with sin. A Civil war rages inside of us between the sinful nature and the new godly nature God creates in us through the Holy Spirit. The result? Battles! Tensions! Paul writes “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Did you notice how many times the word ‘I” enters the picture? Five! When we focus on “I” that is the problem. As this battle rages Paul cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” But God has revealed the solution to Paul…and to us. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Because Jesus delivers us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So quit thinking I-I-I. Start believing Jesus-Jesus-Jesus!
In fact, if you read the epistles of Paul, take not of how many times Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus.” A concordance that I have puts the number at ninety. Remember there was a time when Paul was not in Christ Jesus. His life was 180 degrees different. He knew he was saved by Jesus. Saved? Yes, it’s a fact! We are in Christ Jesus.
We are saved! Paul tells us what from. What are the big problems that we have to face? If ABC or CNN or FOX conducts a poll, the poll would probably reveal that people are concerned about raising a solid family, having a steady, building a business, meeting health challenges or having money to retire. Are they challenges that need to be met? No doubt! But these challenges are over in a few years. Paul addresses the real problems and solution that are forever. “Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Through Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of God who connects us with Jesus, we are set free from sin and death. Solving money problems doesn’t have anything to do with where we spend eternity. Raising kids prepared for life is good, but where are they going to spend eternity? What a shame if they go to hell and we accompany them because we are not “in Christ!”
Sin creates all kinds of havoc in life. Think about what sin does. It brings about death. It offends God who creates us. Because we sin, we fear God just like Adam and Eve did. Remember they tried to hide from God. Jonah thought if he went far enough west God wouldn’t be there. Because of sin, people stop coming to church as if God doesn’t care and know they are missing.
Then there is that bothersome conscience. The problem with the conscience is that it goes everywhere we go. You can’t leave it at home. A man consulted a doctor, "I've been misbehaving, Doc, and my conscience is troubling me," he complained. "You want something that will strengthen your willpower?" asked the doctor. "Well, no," said the fellow. "I was thinking of something that would weaken my conscience."
Leo Tolstoy, the renowned Russian writer, led a sinful life. His conscience didn’t let him rest. He said, “The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: By a change of life or by a change of conscience. Mr. Tolstoy you are wrong. You say you relieve a guilty conscience by changing your life. But what about all the wrong things you did before that change? Or you say you change your conscience. Do you mean you will harden your conscience so it doesn’t recognize sin anymore? No, Mr. Tolstoy, you need Jesus. You apply Jesus. “In (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” We believe the promise that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Since we have been saved from sin and its guilt through Jesus paying its penalty, we have also been saved from the death and all its evil consequences. Paul says in I Corinthians, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What causes death to sting or hurt? Isn’t it sin? But if Jesus forgave sin and it is removed from us as far as the east is from the west, then death is powerless. I like the comparison to a bee that has lost its stinger. It might buzz you and be a nuisance but it can’t hurt you ever again. Death becomes a nuisance and we will see it only as a nuisance because we are promised life on the other side. No one will be complaining that it is too hot or too cold. Everyone will be saying, “Everything is just right.” Jesus saved us from sin and death.
He also saves us from trying to get to heaven by an impossible means – the Law. I mentioned Leo Tolstoy. In his later years he says he believed in parts of the Bible. Listen to what he had to say, “A true Christian could find lasting happiness by striving for inner self-perfection through following the Great Commandment of loving one's neighbor and God rather than looking outward to the Church or state for guidance.” I would contend that most people would consider him to be a Christian. But was he?
Listen to what Paul says, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” Millions, even billions believe like Tolstoy that God will reward those who follow the commandments. Paul does some serious correction. He says that the law is powerless to save because our sinful flesh is too weak to be obedient. That’s why God “sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” So add another item that we are saved from – not only sin and death but through futile obedience to the Ten Commandments.
Paul says one more thing about the topic of “Saved.” Yes, it’s a fact. He also explains what we are saved from, but he also tells us what we are saved for. Someone said that “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” Having no purpose is never true of the Christian. Paul contrasts the life of a Spirit filled Christian with that of a person rejecting Jesus and living the only way he can – according to the sinful flesh. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” When God is not in the life of someone, what does he have to live for? When an evolutionist believes all that exists was a product of chance, what does someone like that believe about the purpose of his own existence? Survival? Me? No wonder the world is in the mess it is!
How different from our goal in life. The Christian’s goal is that the sinful nature not control of us, but that the Spirit of God and the new nature he has created control us. Paul says that nature “lives in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” There is a quite difference.
Someone once illustrated by comparing the laws of gravity with the laws of aerodynamics. When the airplane is on the ground, the plane is subject to the laws of gravitation. It just doesn’t jump in the air to fly - gravity rules. However, when the plane goes down a runway and the flaps of the plane are set, something else begins to rule other than gravity - the laws of aerodynamics. The wind flows over the wings and under the wings. The plane begins to lift. Soon the plane is able to fly.
That’s an analogy of the Christian’s life. By nature we are subjects to the Law of God. The law doesn’t allow us to fly. In fact, the Law of God only leads to crash and burn and fail to please God. We operate under different principles. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” That is a righteousness that Jesus gives you, but also a righteousness you desire to live because he saved you.