Faith: Approaching the NT Book of Romans / Romans 8
We are in Romans 8 this morning. It is an incredible shift in the tone and theology of the letter that Paul is writing.
Up until this point we have seen Paul take us through the empty stretch of humanity and the promise of God to meet us where we can’t save ourselves.
We have seen chapter to chapter Paul ask:
Does this work?
Does this work?
Does this work?
Why doesn’t this work?
And in the last chapter we get to his frustration, “who can save me from this body of death?”
Jesus can do what we cannot.
That is an understanding of the Gospel.
He forgives where we cannot
He strengthens in our weakness
He offers us grace in our bitterness.
What does it look like to live from the place where we have had the grace of God conferred on us? Given to us?
What does a life marked by grace look like?
We have hopeful living rather than condemnation on this side of God’s grace
Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In Christ we are promised the freedom of not having to live under the weight of condemnation.
We are given the hope and promise that there is a another kind of life available to us in Christ.
IT is filled with hope.
And that hope is sustained over time.
This kind of condemnation is not based on our ability to squirm out and live away from condemnation, it is not based on behavior or merit, it is based solely on the work and will of Jesus.
Because we are freed based on JEsus and not based on us, it is something that can last.
To be condemned is to have the sentence of death upon you. It is the limitation and the finishing of the self.
To be condemned is to be considered unfit for use.
Think of a condemned building.
The structures unsound
The walls are rotted
No one has cared for it.
It is hazardous to be in
It’s unfit for use. That’s what it means to be condemned. That’s equally what it feels like. To be unfit for use.
Have you ever felt that way before? Like a building, you have everything in place but at some point in your history something happened and you began to feel unfit for use. And that feeling persisted. That no matter what there would be no chance for value, no chance for habitation again.
See I love that Paul uses that word. He talks about Jesus by using the negative example. He doesn’t say that we are saved (we are but that’s not the language he uses). He starts with the negative. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
How generous that he uses that word.
Because for many of us we use that word or that feeling as a means of always sensing that we are unfit, that we are less than, that we don’t quite fit in.
So Paul wants us to face that word head on.
We are not condemned in Jesus. He has brought value into our lives that we have to discuss.
We are in what is called a dialectic now.
We are using the thought of being condemned to talk about how much we are valued.
I have a friend who likes to sneak into abandoned buildings and take pictures of him. Call it a hobby.
He will walk around and find things that are wortwhile taking pictures of and reveal the value in an old building unfit for use.
He sees value where others see rot and danger.
When God looks at our lives that feel unfit for use, He looks at them in the same light. He has seen value where others have seen rubbish. Where we have ourselves, seen rubbish.
I looked up what it takes to buy a condemned building and why you would want to just as an experiment.
I read a couple of articles on it and found some advice.
The rewards are that you can raise the value of the building through restoring and renovating it. Making the building new raises the value.
But there are obvious risks.
In an article on realtor.com they say
“The biggest risk in buying a condemned home is that the cost of restoring it could be much higher than the value of the house itself.”
The cost it takes to restore the house values more than the house itself.
What is a risk in real estate is a reality in the Kingdom of God.
Look at Romans 8:31-32
Romans 8:31–32 ESV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The risk has already been paid. The payment has been made to more than restore the house. All of the utilities of heaven have been given to restore any condemnation we face.
To understand the beauty and love of God for us we have to look at that idea of condemnation head on.
We have to face it for all it’s ugliness.
We have to face the times that we have felt “unfit for use.”
because it’s in that place that Christ meets us and calls us out of condemnation. Where He says, “no more.”
Jesus makes us fit for use. There is no cost that hasn’t been paid to renovate and restore, to really redeem us.
Romans 8:5–6 ESV
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
We are given purpose. We aren’t waiting an end in condemnation, we are running with great purpose toward freedom. Our minds are set on life and peace.
That life in peace is folded into family. To be fit for use is also to do so within family.
We are called into family with God as father.
To be fit for use means we are fit for family.
With God as the ABBA.
We are not only fit for use, the house is become occupied.
Romans 8:14–17 ESV
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
When we say yes to Christ and are led by the Spirit, that Spirit of God in us cries out ABBA father. God’s spirit recognizes our spirit that we are His children.
And just like paul using the word “condemnation” to communicate something he also uses this word ABBA to communicate something.
ABBA is the aramaic version of dada. It is the first word that a child learns in connection to their parents. It is a relational word. Everyone else is “them” and their is only one who is ABBA.
ABBA is not a distant, unfamiliar father type who shares certain attributes with us. This is ABBA who teaches us and comes close to us. This is ABBA who parents and cares for us.
We are not only redeemed and restored we are given relationships.
This language of adoption is important because it shows us that even as we have rejected all forms of rescue by God, our movement toward Him and away from any other solution, means He invites us into our lives as sons and daughters. He gives us the same rights as if we had never left. Whenever we have felt unfit for use, HE restores those places and fills the house.
And being folded into family is good news for us and for our culture. We are in the middle of dealing with the turnaround of the pandemic. We are still living pretty isolated lives and that isolation is taking a toll. Our neighbors and workmates are isolated. We think that separation is tax free but it’s not.
The formed surgeon general Vivek Murthy wrote a book about lonliness and as he talked to people as he travelled he would listen to what they would say and he found that no one would say that they were lonely, they would say things like:
“I feel like I have to deal with all of these struggles on my own”
“I feel like if I disappeared tomorrow, nobody would even notice”
“I feel like I’m invisible.”
The point he makes is that people felt like no matter what they were facing they felt like they were facing it alone.
Being folded into God’s family means we don’t have to face things alone again. We have ABBA who walks with us, even when we don’t have the words.
We are occupied by God and are surrounded by God’s people.
You have a place on this side of God’s grace.
You are not cast out or alone or invisible.
God, in His grace, has redeemed you and called you fit for use. He has surrounded you as family and called you to Himself.
It is in this familial language that we realize it is not just that God remakes us and then walks away.
God does not flip people like people flip houses.
It is not an extreme home makeover and then walks away and makes you deal with the taxes.
The understanding in this passage is that Christ calls us to Himself as family. We belong to God as children and He to us as Father.
That means we aren’t just given purpose we are given family. And it is not just the determination that we have purpose and family but those two realities are the constant reminder that all is different.
We are now, understanding this side of grace, formed by love. We endure because our primary driver is the love of God. And we see that the love of God is a greater force than anything else.
We are formed by the love of God.
Romans 8:37–39 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What is it that you are facing in life? What feels stronger or bigger or larger than the love of God?
We see in the passage that there is nothing that can separate us.
There is no loss greater than the love of God
No situation greater
Or frustration greater
There is no anger greater than the love of God
Even if you don’t know your way through right now, it is not greater than the love of God.
There is no weakness that can condemn us.
Paul says in all these things. We are more than conquerers. The word means to defeat surpassingly.
So all these things are things that the Love of God surpassed yesterday.
It is a stronger force to redeem and restore than we could ever know.
Where do you feel unfit for use?
Look to God to wash over that space with His love.
Ask Him to show you where His love connects with the weak places of our lives.
Hopeful living means experiencing the love of God within those places where we feel weak or where we feel like we are unfit for use.
God moves in them. His love rushes into an over them.