Being in Christ: The Freedom from the War Within (Romans 8:1-17)
Introduction: Christ Brings Freedom
Christ's Deliverance from Man's Death Sentence
Romell Broom has the dubious honor of being one of only two people in American history to have survived an attempt by a State to execute him for capital crimes that he has committed. The first happened in 1947,when 18-year-old Willie Francis was set to be killed via electric chair. The chair didn’t work, but the US Supreme Court eventually ruled to permit a second attempt in which he was successfully executed.
Romell Broom, however is, as of this writing still alive. Broom, born June 4, 1956, is an American man convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape. Here are the facts on Romell as told by Wikipedia:
He was convicted in 1984 of abducting and killing Tryna Middleton, age 14, who was walking home from a football game in East Cleveland, Ohio. In 2003, Broom accepted an offer from the state of Ohio for a DNA test to prove his innocence—however, the test results failed to exonerate him. The clemency hearing concluded that "the DNA report does not indicate an exact match, but does indicate that the likelihood of Broom [not] being the donor is 1 in 2.3 million. Otherwise stated, eight or nine other people in the country would have the same profile." Broom has repeatedly requested independent DNA retesting and a change of legal team.
Broom also has convictions for robbery, aggravated robbery and four counts of kidnap of a male child. He was further convicted in a separate incidence of raping a female child.
He was set to be executed September 15, 2009. However, executioners tried for 2 hours to maintain an IV line through which they could administer the lethal injection of drugs. Then Ohio State Governor Ted Strickland issued a one-week reprieve.
Broom's lawyers argued that his first execution attempt was cruel and unusual punishment. They also claimed that executing him would mean that evidence would be irretrievably lost for a broader lawsuit that they were bringing up challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection procedure.
The case made it to the Ohio Supreme Court in March 2016. The court rejected an appeal by Broom and ruled that the state can again try to execute him. In August 2016, Broom asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a second execution, with his lawyers arguing that another execution attempt would be cruel and unusual punishment and would violate double jeopardy protections under the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution.On December 12, 2016, SCOTUS declined to give Broom a hearing on his appeal. On May 19, 2017, the Ohio Supreme Court scheduled an execution date for Broom, on June 17, 2020.
Imagine for a moment that you are a death-row inmate like Broom and are scheduled to be executed. You know that it's coming. You're going to be paying for your crimes with your life. You just don't know what day that will be. What would you do? You'd probably seek to appeal your sentence like he did. But, if you are actually guilty, you know that there is little or no hope of you being acquitted of your crime. And you'd, most likely, try to live life to it's fullest within the confines of the prison in which you're existing.
That is the whole human race apart from faith in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are guilty sinners on death row awaiting the carrying out of the sentence by God, the only completely just Judge in the entire universe. All mankind without faith in Jesus is headed for eternal separation from God in Hell and all are only one heartbeat away from this judgment.
The Apostle Paul spends 5 chapters of the book of Romans making the point that man can only be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Righteousness can only come by faith because we can never be saved by works. We all have sinned and fall short of God's glory (3:23). We're all guilty and worthy of the death sentence, the capital punishment which is to be brought upon us. God's justice depends upon it and demands it.
But, thanks be to God, what we couldn't do on our own, God did through His Son! We couldn't save ourselves but He saved us from our sin and its consequences.
In chapter 6 Paul answers the critics that say that if we are saved by grace than we can continue in sin that grace may abound. His response? May it never be! We are dead to sin. How can we live in sin any longer? (Romans 6:1,2) Further, Christ has freed us from our slavery to sin whose wages is death. Why do we want to go back to our old slave master (6:20-23).
It is at the end of Romans 7 that Paul gets into the conflict and continuing struggle that a believer has between the Nature of sin, still present in his flesh, and the New Nature given by faith in Jesus Christ (7:14-25). The believer has a war within him. The Old Nature entices him to sin, while the New Nature bids him to do what is right and pleasing to God.
The conflict makes Paul cry out: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? (24). Thankfully, the Apostle is able to answer his own question, beginning with the end of chapter 7 and continuing in chapter 8.
Verse 25 of chapter 7 tells us:
"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
Those who are in Christ Jesus no longer need to be enslaved to the body of death called the sin nature. And the Law, with its commands but lack of power to give us the ability to keep them, no longer condemns us. We are now in Christ and have been given our freedom.
The old slave master may try to tell you that you still belong to him. He may try to tell you what a horrible person that you are and whisper to you: "Why fight it! You've always been a loser and you always will be! You can't change and you might as well give in to the sin that has always held you back!"
Don't believe it! You now belong to Jesus and have the power to become all that He wants you to be! You are not condemned anymore! That, and much more, is Romans 8. This chapter amplifies for us the freedom from sin that we have as followers of Christ and the blessings that we enjoy by being children of God through faith.
In this study, we will deal with the first 17 verses of this wonderfully encouraging chapter which starts with the fact that there is no condemnation in Christ and ends powerfully with the beautiful idea that nothing can ever separate us from God's love in Christ.
I. Christ Brings Freedom from Condemnation (1-4)
To begin with, If we can imagine ourselves back on death-row once again, we are behind bars and awaiting our punishment. All of a sudden the judge who sentenced us to death comes into our cell and takes our place. He sets us free and allows the death sentence to be administered to himself instead. Justice is served and the penalty has been paid. Now, we are freed from the condemnation for our crime. Romans 8:1-4 tells us just this glorious truth.
For those in Christ, there is no condemnation for sin. His death has set us free from the law of sin and death by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law. The Spirit of Life, the Holy Spirit, makes it possible now for us to live a life that is holy, righteous and good. The Law, though good, is like a ladder to someone in a pit who has no arms and legs. The ladder is a good thing and if you could climb it without arms and legs, you could get out of the pit. Unfortunately, you have no limbs with which to climb the ladder.
Just like this unfortunate man, we all were helpless to save ourselves by the works of the Law. It showed us the way to go and pointed out our need but we could do nothing about our need. We were helpless.
While the Law cries: "Guilty!", in Christ the verdict is: "Not Guilty." No sin the believer can commit, whether it be past, present or future, can be held against him since the penalty was paid by Christ and Christ's righteousness has been imputed to the one who has faith. Nothing can ever reverse the decision made by God against the sinner who places his trust in Jesus. We are now free to live according to the leading of the Spirit of God and not the flesh that had us in bondage for so long. This is the good news, the glorious Gospel of the Grace of God that we all can receive by trusting Jesus as our Savior.
II. Christ Brings Freedom from Sin's Power (5-8).
Paul, however, does not want for us to confuse freedom with license here. He lets us know that we in Christ no longer live like we once did. He says at the end of verse 4 that God sent Jesus:
"...in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirements of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
Christ not only saved us from sin's condemnation. He has also freed us from sin's power. For those living in a Romans 7 experience and feel trapped by their Flesh or their Old Nature, this is one of the most liberating sections of Scripture that they can ever hear. We now have a choice that we never had before faith in Christ. We can actually choose not to sin. We can actually please God.
When we think about it, there are two choices the saint has. He can live according to the Old Fleshly Nature of sin. or he can live according to the New Nature lead by the Holy Spirit. Setting our minds to live according to the flesh cannot please God and leads to death. If we set our minds to live according to the Spirit, we get life and peace (8:5-8).
An analogy is like comparing the choice we have to the game show "Let's Make a Deal" in which we can choose different doors. Behind one door is a great prize such as a trip to Hawaii or a new sports-car. Behind the other door is a pile of dog feces. We have been warned in advance which door has the great prizes. Which door will we choose? Obviously the door with the trip or the car. It would indeed be strange to choose the other door. However, that is just what some Christians do with their lives. They choose the wrong door and then are upset when their lives don't work out the way they should.
Christians, through faith, have been given the prize. We don't have to take the mess behind the other door. Through Christ, Sin's power has been overcome. And we have been given the ability to craw out of the pit of sin.
III. Christ Brings the Indwelling Spirit (9-17)
The reason the believer has the ability to overcome sin's power is the fact that he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the living God. If you are a Christian, then your body is the Temple of the Spirit. Paul goes so far as to say that if you don't have the Holy Spirit then you don't belong to Christ (9-10). The fact is that there are no Spiritless Christians.
Our bodies may still be the old dead sinful fleshly bodies that they always were, but we now have a living spirit. And the Holy Spirit which lives in us is the same person who raised up the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. It is He that will one day raise up our bodies as well (11).
The Apostle Paul goes on to give the admonition in verse 12 that we, with all of this going for us, now have an obligation not to live according to the flesh, but according to the leading of the Spirit within us. He warns that the flesh brings death but the Spirit gives life (13). So there really shouldn't be much thought that goes into deciding which way is best.
We haven't received this Spirit in order to place ourselves back in the bondage of sin. Rather we have received the Spirit of adoption. We are now able to cry out to God: "Abba Father!" He is our Daddy. We are His children. That same Spirit living in us testifies with our human spirit, assuring us that we belong to God's family.
And we are joint-heirs with Christ. All that He has belongs to us as well. True, we share in His sufferings on this earth. But that further assures us that we will one day share in His glorification in Heaven. (14-17).
J. H. McConkey once related this illustration about the believer's freedom in Christ. He said:
"Shortly after the Civil War a Northern woman came the South to visit some friends. She stopped at a little wayside hotel for entertainment. There she was waited on by a colored woman who had been a slave. The service was careless, listless, and inattentive. As this went on, the Northern woman became nettled. Finally she burst out with: `Auntie, is this the way you treat people who have set you free?' The woman made no reply but left the room. By and by she returned. Her whole demeanor was changed. Her figure was erect, her eyes were flashing, and her voice was full of tears as she cried out with great emotion, `Oh, Missus, is we free? Is we really free?'
The Emancipation Proclamation had really set her free. But she was as much a slave as though that document had never been issued. For she had not believed it. Her failure of faith meant failure of freedom. Multitudes of Christians are in the same plight."
All of us who have faith in Jesus Christ are free from the condemnation from sin. We are free from the power of sin that once ruled us. And we don't have to place ourselves back under its bondage because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. He gives us the power to live a holy life that the Law, nor anything else, was unable to do.
The Romans 7 struggle continues to be real because we still have this old fleshly body. But it doesn't have to rule our lives any longer. We are free from sin's bondage and have the ability to grow in our faith, allowing us to be increasingly conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
Praise God for the new life of righteousness that we can now live. And may we trust in His Spirit daily to give us the strength to please the God who gave us that glorious life!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley