Our New Life In Christ
ECF 31st August 2008 Romans 8:1-4
A man went into a hardware shop one morning and asked to buy a new saw. The salesman took a chain saw from the shelf and commented that it was their “newest model, with the latest in technology, guaranteed to cut ten cords of firewood a day.” The customer thought that sounded pretty good, so he bought it on the spot.
The next day the customer returned, looking somewhat exhausted. “Something must be wrong with this saw,” he moaned. “I worked as hard as I could and only managed to cut three cords of wood. I used to do four with my old-fashioned saw.”
Looking confused, the salesman said, “Here, let me try it out back on some wood we keep there.” They went to the woodpile, the salesman pulled the cord, and as the motor went Vvvrooommm, the customer leaped back and exclaimed, “What’s that noise.”
It’s ridiculous to think of someone trying to cut wood with a chain saw without using the power of the saw! And yet maybe we do something similar in our Christian lives? Maybe we try to live for Christ without using the power that he gave us! Maybe we try to live out this new life in Christ, but do it in the exhausting “old-fashioned way”? Read Romans 8:1-4 There are four things that Paul says makes this new life possible!
1) New Security
First of there is a new security! One day, in 1975, Judge Thompson from Louisiana, apologized for arriving at court late. He had been stopped by the police for driving at 42 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone. But an even stranger occurrence happened a little later when his driving offence later came before his own court. It was then, Thompson stepped down from the bench, stood before it, and pleaded guilty to his crime. Then he sentenced himself to a fine of $17.50.
Have you ever done that? We look at how far short of God’s standards we daily fall; at our failures, at the missed opportunities to do good. And like this judge, we put ourselves on trial and declare ourselves guilty as charged!
There’s someone else who wants to condemn us! The Devil is called: “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:10. He accuses us and seeks to shame us with all our past mistakes and sins.
And living under condemnation, can paralyse us in our lives. It makes us insecure in God’s family; it makes us timid in our evangelism, hesitant in our service.
But this is not how God wants us to live. Paul says to Timothy “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
This way of life starts from recognising our security in Christ!
a) No Condemnation for us
For all of us who struggle with guilt. Who fear that we’ll one day fall too far, that we’ll exhaust God’s grace. Here’s the promise we need. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” v1
God, our Father, the eternal Judge has for all eternity declared us righteous in his sight. We have been “justified by faith” Romans 3:28. We have been truly forgiven – all past, present and future sins! God has promised: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12
And so today, if we have trusted in Jesus. And so there is no condemnation remaining for us. No punishment hanging over us. No judgement that we need to fear!
b) Sin has been condemned!
Our security does not lie in our ability to live a perfect life. In fact, it doesn’t depend on us at all. This new life is a life without condemnation. It is not a life without sin or failure or mistakes. Our security rests completely on what God has done! A security that comes because God “condemned sin in sinful man.” v3!
God did not move the goalposts. He did not brush our sin under the carpet. He didn’t throw away his law. Instead Jesus satisfied God’s law! Jesus said about the law that “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Matthew 5:17
The law condemned us because it showed that “The wages of sin is death!” Romans 6:23. But Jesus completely paid this price. He satisfied the demands of the law. And so our sin has been dealt with – fully, once for all, completely. And God will never demand payment for it again: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33
c) We are Saved Now!
And so we’re not more saved when we are doing well as a Christian. We’re not less saved when we are struggling. When we lose our temper, or wake up in a bad mood, or fail to overcome temptation – our names are not temporarily removed from the Book of Life. Our salvation has got nothing to do with what we do or don’t do! It is all about God’s grace. As Jesus said: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
Guilt, fear and failure does not need to dominate our lives. Our victory is secure, and so we can live with joy and with courage. Joy in our secure relationship with God. Courage to live for God with commitment and excitement knowing that we are held securely in our Father’s hands.
2) New Freedom
And we have this new security because we have this new freedom in Christ. v2 states: ”because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Again Paul emphasises that this freedom is not something that we have worked for. Rather it is through Christ! And it is something which from the tense that Paul uses is something which is a once-for-all act!
a) Freedom from the Law of Sin and Death
If we are in Christ this morning, if we have trusted in Jesus, then we have been set “free from the law of sin and death.” This is God’s Law, the Torah, the commandments given through Moses.
And as Paul has said, God’s law is “holy and righteous and good.” Romans 7:12. However we have also seen in Romans, the close connection between sin and death. The law reveals sin. It provokes sin. It condemns sin and in the end brings death: “For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.” Romans 7:11
This is “the law of sin and death” that we were under. The law rightly judged us guilty of sin and sentenced us to death! But when we trusted in Jesus, we were set free. “You are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 Jesus paid our sentences and so we are no longer bound to the law to be right with God or to live in a right way with God! Another law is at work!
b) Freedom in the Law of the Spirit of Life
The law of gravity acts on an aeroplane to give it tremendous weight that anchors it to the ground. And yet, when the engines roar into life and move the plane down the runway, at a critical speed the law of aerodynamics takes over. This law frees the plane from the effects of gravitational force, and the plane soars into the sky!
The law of sin and death kept us down. It revealed our sin and condemned us to death. But if we have trusted in Jesus then there is another law is at work in our lives, “the law of the Spirit of life.” This is the good news of life in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit applies the finished work of Christ to our lives. He brings us to the cross. He brings us into a new life.
And so he overcomes that law that held us down and condemned us. He has set us free from its effects and calls us now to soar in the freedom that Christ gives. “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:6
We don’t need to live in the old way of the law any more! We’re not in slavery to rules and regulations that condemn us! We are called to live in the new freedom of life in the Holy Spirit! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
I wonder, do we really live in this freedom? Often as Christians we live in slavery to the law of sin and death! We are condemned by our failures. We live in the exhausting struggle of trying to match up to the standard we set ourselves or we see in Scripture. We exclude ourselves from the closeness of relationship with God we long for, or we exclude ourselves from really serving the Lord and speaking for him – because we don’t think we are good enough!
The amazing truth of our gospel is that we are not good enough! But Christ is! And he has given us his goodness. He has declared us righteous in God’s sight! And he has called us to go and live out this new freedom in Christ!
3) New Power
But that’s not all! In Christ, we don’t only have new security and new freedom. We also have new power to live out this new life!
a) Powerless Law
We need this power because God’s perfect, beautiful, noble and excellent law was “powerless.” v3 What does this mean?
It means God’s law could not justify us. It could never make us right with God. Do you remember Romans 3:20: “no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”
And God’s law could never sanctify us. It could never empower us to live right for God! In Romans 7 we learned about Paul’s exhausting struggle trying to live out the life that he wanted. He said: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18
Even having God’s law did not empower him to live a different life.
(1) Weakened by Sinful Nature
Paul says that God’s law was “it was weakened by the sinful nature” v3. The law did not finally deal with the sin in our hearts - our nature that rebels against God’s best and that seeks selfish and self-centredness. Paul concluded in Romans 7:25: “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” God’s law is good and perfect. But it cannot change our lives. It reveals the right way to live, but It doesn’t have the power to enable us to live it!
It is not that God made a mistake with the law! The law was not Plan A and now we need Plan B! The gospel always has been Plan A. And God’s wonderful law was part of the process of revealing his plan of salvation. As Paul states in Galatians: “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24 It was given to us to bring us to the recognition of our need of a Saviour and to bring us to the point of depending on Jesus through faith!
b) Powerful God
But look at how Paul continues v3: “For what the law was powerless to do… God did.” This is what the gospel is all about isn’t it. It is all about our weakness and God’s strength. Our inability and God’s ability. About our lostness and God coming as our Saviour!
We were unable to be right with God. We were unable to live right for God. But what we could not do, God did!
(1) The Person of Jesus
And he did this “by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man.” v3
Paul is very careful how he says this. “God did by sending his own Son.” Jesus’ work and mission and ministry was the expression of the heart of God. John writes: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” John 3:16 Jesus revealed God’s heart and his heart is full of love for you and me!
This is the incarnation. Jesus was fully human. John again says in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
And yet he was different. He came “in the likeness of sinful man.” He did not have a sinful nature. He lived a completely human life with a human personality, facing common temptations to ourselves and yet he was completely without sin! As Hebrews 4:15 states that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
(2) The Power of the Cross
But God didn’t save us by only the manger in Bethlehem, but also the cross outside of Jerusalem! Jesus came “to be a sin offering.” v3 He came to do something about sin!
On the cross God “condemned sin.” The final judgement of our sin fell on Jesus. This is the power of the cross:
This the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.
We were unable to live right with God. But through faith in Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God empowers us to live right with him!
4) New Way to Live
a) Saved to live a different life!
Look at v4. Paul reminds us that we were saved to live a different life: “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us” God wants is to live a different kind of life. God’s grace is not given to us so that we could live any life we wanted. God’s grace is offered to us so that we can live this new life! Sanctification – living out our Christian lives – is not an optional extra – it is why Jesus died!
This new life is one that is in keeping with the moral standard of the law of God! The New Testament does not reinvent the standard of righteousness compared to the Old Testament. God has not changed his moral standard. Some of the ceremonial laws and ways of approaching God have changed, but God’s standard of right and wrong has not! And God wants us to live a life that reflects his standard for life.
What are the characteristics of this life? It is a life of holiness. Peter writes “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 We are called to live a life that is different from the world! A life set apart for God!
This new life is a life of love: Paul will say later in this letter: “He who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 God’s goal is that we will live out a new life more and more like Jesus! Paul will expand on this as we go down through the chapter.
b) Indwelt to live a different life!
But how will we be able to live out this different life? It is those “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” v4 who do. Living out this new life in Christ is not just about our increased effort, its not about stricter following of God’s rules, it is not about being more committed in our efforts against sin. It is about the power of the indwelling Spirit.
The famous preacher DL Moody once held up the glass to his audience. “Tell me,” he said, “How can I get the air out of this glass?”
One man said, “Suck it out with a pump.”
But Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.”
There were other impossible suggestions. But then Moody, picked up a jug of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.”
His point was that we don’t live out this new life in Christ by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but rather by being filled with the Spirit. Paul will explain this in more detail as we go through this chapter!
On June 12, 1979, a young man made aviation history when he flew a pedal-powered plane across the English Channel. Taking off from England, he flew for three hours, rarely more than fifteen feet above the water. Finally, after covering twenty-two miles, he landed exhausted on the coast of France.
But Human-powered flight will never be a practical way to travel. We just do not have the power or endurance to enable us to fly for any great length of time!
In the same way, human-powered living will never be practical! Sometimes we try to live for God in this way. We put all our energies into living for him. Straining to keep the rules and standards that we or others impose. Putting all our energies into trying to please God and earn his love!
But this is the way of guilt and insecurity. Of bondage to rules and impossible standards. Of powerlessness. No matter how good or focussed or committed to living this way, we will always end up defeated and exhausted!
But we are not called to live this way. We are called to live a new life. Not a human-powered life. But a Spirit-powered life!
So let’s give up trying to live for God in the old-fashioned way. Instead, let us live out our Christian lives in this new way – a life with new security, new freedom and new power lived out in the new way of the indwelling Holy Spirit!