Summary: Protect Yourself from Sin’s Charge and Sin’s Control 1) Inside Christ 2) With Christ inside
Some time ago when we were cleaning out our laundry room we found a number of iron rods like this. I don’t know where they came from or what they were used for but how do you think we could use them now? We could use them to bar our windows if we had a problem with robbers, or if I wanted to swim in an area known for sharks, I could use the rods to make myself a shark cage that would keep me safe from shark attacks. Do you think these rods could help me if I ate them? That may sound funny but did you know that when you eat food like broccoli, you’re eating iron? Iron is good for you. It helps your red blood cells carry and store oxygen. If you don’t get enough iron in your diet, you’ll feel tired and lethargic. It’s interesting isn’t it how iron can help us whether we’re inside it as in a shark cage, or whether it’s inside us helping oxygen move around our body.
The Apostle Paul tells this morning that Jesus is a lot like iron. He’s helpful to us whether we’re inside him or he is inside us. When we are inside Christ, Jesus protects us from sin’s charge. And when Christ is inside us, he protects us from sin’s control.
Let’s begin by finding out why we need protection from sin anyway. Paul said in our text: “6 The mind of sinful man is death…7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6a, 7, 8). We need protection from sin because it brings death. It does that by directing us to always do the opposite of what God wants us to do. Have you ever been around a preschooler who has decided that it’s “opposite” day? When you ask him to stand, he sits. And when you ask him to sit, he stands. From the moment we are conceived that’s the way we act towards God. We don’t do what he wants because we are controlled by our sinful nature which is allied with the devil.
But just as “opposite” day doesn’t last very long with preschoolers because their parents won’t put up with it, so we, who are controlled by the sinful nature, can’t escape God’s wrath forever. God can’t stand those who disobey him and will punish them with death and then an eternity in hell.
But are things really that bad in our lives? Are we always irritating God by doing what he doesn’t want us to do? I suppose the disciples didn’t think that they were such bad people either but do you remember what they were doing in our Gospel lesson this morning that upset Jesus? They were arguing among themselves as to which one was the most important (Matthew 20). This argument didn’t happen soon after Jesus had called them to be his disciples. If it had, the disciples could have at least used the excuse that they didn’t know any better. No, this exchange took place at the end of Jesus’ ministry. The disciples had watched and listened to Jesus for three years and should have known that if they wanted to be great in the Kingdom of God, they were to do that by becoming the least, that is serve and not demand to be served.
Although we may not sit around arguing about who is the most important person in our family, class, workplace, or church, we do show it with our attitudes don’t we? We may be slow to take out the garbage at home because that’s a smelly job that we don’t think we should have to deal with. That’s what little brothers and sisters are for right? Or when our boss asks us to clean up the bathrooms at work we wonder why he doesn’t ask the new guy to do it. Instead of listening wholeheartedly to one another’s ideas about ways of doing ministry here we find it easier to scoff. Are we any different than the disciples when it comes to arguing about who is the greatest among us? No, we may even have to admit that we are worse for we haven’t bothered to learn from the rebuke Jesus gave the disciples for their sin.
So what hope is there for us who are controlled by the sinful nature? There should be no hope, only an expectation of God’s condemnation and punishment. But Paul says something quite incredible in the first verse of our text. He said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Those who stand inside Christ are protected from the condemnation of their sin. How does it work? Remember how I said I could use these iron rods to make a shark cage? Such a cage won’t keep sharks from attacking but when they do come after the diver inside they will run into these iron bars and get nor farther. So it is with our sin. Even though we still sin daily, those who stand inside of Christ are certain that those sins run into and stick to Jesus instead of to us. Jesus, therefore, bears the condemnation for our sin so that we don’t have to.