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Taking Sides!

March 1, 2013

  Read Romans 8:1-17

Peer pressure starts early. Back in the days that I was in junior school, there was a ritual that used to take place among the boys, in the playground, during the lunch break. The question was quite simple – “do you support Man United or Chelsea?” We are talking so long ago now that it was in the days that these two football clubs were not particularly good, but nonetheless it seems they were the teams to follow. Boys would line up in the playground according to their allegiance. Things could get quite ugly and people would be known to change sides to avoid threats. It never seemed to be an option to say Liverpool or Plymouth Argyle. There was never an option to say “I don’t like football”. There were two sides and you had to make a choice. There was to be no sitting on the fence. You were blue or red.

Football is hardly a matter of life or death although you would think some people think so to listen them. One well known manager once said that football was not a matter of life or death; it was more important than that. The world is full of people for whom everything is cut and dried. If they support Man Utd they hate Man City. If you love Arsenal you detest Spurs. If you’re from Plymouth you can have no time for Exeter City. It matters which side you’re on.

The issues we are looking at in Romans 8 are infinitely more important than a ball game. They really are matters of life and death. There are choices we make which will have an effect far beyond this short life. The consequences are eternal.

The Apostle Paul is writing to the church of his day in Rome. In this chapter he presents us with a choice. He presents us with two sides. There are no in betweens. There is a choice between what is called the sinful nature and the spiritual nature. A choice between doing it my way or doing it God’s way. And Paul leaves us under no illusions, our choice is crucial for the end is death. Or life.

Earlier in this letter Paul tells his readers that all of us fall short. That is the way we are.

FALLING SHORT

There are those of us who make no attempt to submit to God’s law. RfMany of us have accepted the lie that “There probably is no God so don’t worry”. Others try to please God in the thing they do. They try to live good lives. If there is a God they hope he will be pleased and accept them. Paul says “You can’t do it.

God’s law was given to his people. Jesus actually summed up the law by boiling it down to 2 commandments. “1) Love the Lord your God with all your mind soul and strength 2) Love your neighbour as yourself”. Can we do it? No we can’t. Paul says our sinful nature takes over and we fall short.

We naturally live by the sinful nature. We desire the wrong things in life. We are hostile to God and his ways. It’s a way of life. We do not have God’s Spirit living in us. Paul warns us that live this way is a way that will end in disaster. Death is the only end

THE BRIDGE

So there is no hope for us? Yes, says Paul, there is hope, because where we have failed to keep God’s law, where we have fallen short God has made it possible for us to be freed from sin and death.

God’s rescue mission is achieved by sending his Son Jesus. To live among us, to be one of us and to live the perfect life, fulfilling God’s law. And to pay a price to solve our problem. Jesus we are told was made an offering. His perfect life was sacrificed for our imperfect lives. He volunteered to take the punishment that our failure deserves. But that was not the end, says Paul, for God’s Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, so that we too could no life. Real life.

REAL LIVING

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, Paul tells us that it is as if we have kept God’s law. Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we too are raised to life, in this world and for eternity. The old life has been killed off. We don’t live that way anymore. Jesus has done it. Whereas before we could not approach God without being condemned for our sin and failures we are assured there is NO CONDEMNATION.

We also have the promise that the powerful Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead also lives in you. An amazing thing! We still are not capable in our own efforts to please God, but God gives us his resurrection Spirit, with the power we need to live as followers of Jesus.

SO HOW ARE YOU DOING?

So if we are Christians, how are we shaping up? With God’s Spirit in our hearts, we live his way, we fill our minds with the things that the Holy Spirit desires and not what this world tries to fill our heads with. We can know life and peace. We need not be afraid. We have a relationship with God which is real and personal. We can call God Father. In fact the word Paul uses “Abba” is a word closer to Daddy. We are children trusting in a loving father.

We are told there will be times of sufferings. We are after all followers of Jesus, the one who made the greatest sacrifice. But there will be glory. In this earthly life and throughout eternity as we come face to face with God and worship him in all his glory.

You have the opportunity to make a choice. You have read God’s word. You have been presented with the options. You can carry on living your own way, trusting in your own abilities and the Bible tells you, you will fail. Or you can choose to live God’s way, a way that leads to life as it is meant to be.

But if that is our aim it is not about trying harder, for we have heard we cannot please God. The bridge between us and God is only filled when we recognise that Jesus is the answer. When we realise that we can do nothing ourselves, but have to rely on the victory won by Jesus through his death on the cross and his resurrection.

Are you ready to trust in him? To surrender your life to him this afternoon now. The price of your salvation is already paid – completely. But while the price of our salvation is paid, the Christian life itself is not without cost. Paul is open that there may be suffering. There will be trials. There will be times of struggle and doubt. But we can have relationship with God. God the Holy Spirit can empower you to live. We can know God’s peace and can call ourselves God’s children.

What will you decide, for this is the biggest decision you will ever make.

Some of us have already made that choice, perhaps many years ago, but as we measure ourselves against Paul’s words we recognise that we are not living the life. Maybe we can see that we have even gone back to trying to earn God’s acceptance by the things we do. And we have concluded that we don’t measure up and are failures. We have been reminded that is not true. Jesus has paid the price once and for all. Thank him again today for his grace and mercy.

Or it might be that we look at our lives and there is no peace. We are full of fear. We prefer to live our way and not God’s. We don’t allow God’s Spirit to lead us. We want to experience the glory that God has for us but we back off if it looks like we might suffer for our faith. We feel almost as if we’ve gone back to playing for the other side. Then the challenge is there again to us. The invitation is there to come back to the foot of the cross of Jesus and renew our vows to him. He will NEVER let us go.

Be ready. In the Old Testament, Israel’s leader, Joshua, issued this challenge. “Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve”. It’s a choice you can only make for yourself. Don’t leave it. Look at Jesus’ love for you. Look at what you have to lose and gain. Choose life.

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