I know, I know … I just lost everyone under age 50 with that title. It of course refers to the 40-years ago television program called “The Flip Wilson Show.” I guess we were easily entertained in those days, because everyone tuned in to see Flip play the character roles of “Reverend Leroy” – the arrogant pastor of “The Church of What’s Happening Now,” and the sassy “Geraldine Jones” – the impulse-shopping African-American woman who would justify her every indulgence by saying, “The Devil made me do it!” The phrase became a national catchphrase. Yep, it was a simpler time!
However, the problem we all know is that there is some power that makes us prone to sin – even after knowing Christ as Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul was no exception to this. And in chapter seven of Romans he goes through a cyclic litany of “I don’t do what I want to do, and the things I do, I don’t want to do” utterances that express the frustrations of the war that goes on within the human heart and flesh. Then, in the final verses of that chapter he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
So what about this evil power of the flesh and sin nature … are we bound by it? Are we condemned by it? The beginning of chapter eight of Romans – our reading for today – says that we have no condemnation against us in Jesus Christ. The word for “condemnation” is one that means there is no sentence of punishment against us because of a guilty judgment. Why? Because God has been propitiated – satisfied – by the substitutionary payment of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The law condemned a man – showing him his sin and demonstrating the utter impossibility of keeping it … it was a law of sin and death. But a new law exists – the law of the Spirit – a power within that makes it possible to live a life of obedience to God and truth. And the old law of sin in the flesh leading to death – that law and power is what has been in actuality handed the sentence of condemnation (the same basic word as above).
So that is very cool! Sin and death is being judged, not us. Rather, we have the Spirit of God to help us live for Him as we yield to His presence within. The title of the first sermon of this “Cross Words” series last Sunday – “I’ve Been Judged” – no, we do not need to have that feeling; sin has been judged and God is satisfied with the payment.
8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set youfree from the law of sin and death. 3 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.And so he condemned sin in the flesh,4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
To those of you reading this on varied devices — to follow the ongoing puzzle you will need to go to the URL or in some fashion go to the web page to see it. The big day when the whole thing is revealed will be on April 22.
Again, here are two more words for the puzzle. I hope you are keeping track of this so that at the last week, you can take a shot at solving the whole thing and winning the grand prize!
Law – We talked about this today. The Law of Moses with all of its regulations – though it had a prescription for atoning for sin in a temporary way, it ultimately was powerless to defeat it and give a final victory. But Christ fulfilled the Law, and as the perfect sacrifice paid the penalty that rendered the Law of no lasting effect.
Freedom – The Law never made it possible for a person to feel free. There was always a sense of condemnation and requirement. But as it says in today’s reading, we have been set free from this by the great work of Jesus Christ. Freedom is indeed a “cross word.”