Set Free! (Romans 8:1-13)

Main Idea: When Jesus died, He completely took the penalty of sin upon Himself for those who have faith in Him. So, be free.

Text:

[Picture of the Game of Life board game]

Have any of you played this game? Yeah, it’s the Game of Life. I played it quite a bit when I was a kid. The tag line on the box is, “Your Life, Your Way,” which sounds kind of appealing. The rules are simple. You spin the spinner, and do whatever it tells you to do. You get a job. You add a spouse, and some kids. You follow the rules. And if you follow all the rules, eventually, you can win the game.

I played this game with my kids this past week. And I don’t want to brag, but I won the Game of Life.

Many people think Christianity is just about following God’s rules, and as long as you follow the rules, you can win the game. But Scripture actually teaches that although there are a lot of rules in the game we call life, we can’t win by following the rules at all. In fact, Jesus came exactly because we couldn’t follow God’s rules. So instead, Jesus sets us free.

And yet, we all know that God does desire that we live a certain way. We’re not set free in order to sin, we’re set free in order to live the life that we were created to live, which we were unable to do before we received Jesus. But in order to start living this life, we need to adopt a completely new mindset about life. And it’s this new mindset that Scripture not only encourages us to have, but tells us that we do have in Christ.

Romans 8:1-13.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:1-13)

Father, thank You for sending Your Spirit so that we might begin to walk in a way that magnifies Your grace in this hostile world. And even now, as we know that we’ve all lived hostile to You and hostile to the gospel, help us even now to walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Another game that I used to play with my kids from time to time was Jenga.

[Picture of Jenga]

In Jenga, you start with this perfect tower, and then the goal of the game is to take pieces out from the tower, and then perfectly balance each piece as you add it back to the game. And if you can’t take a piece out, or if you can’t balance the piece, it all comes crashing down, and you lose.

I’ve learned over the years as a pastor that a lot of believers feel like the Christian life is like a game of Jenga. Whether it’s our prayer lives, or lack of evangelistic efforts, or a particular sin that they’ve struggled with for years, many Christians feel very unbalanced in the way that we live.

Like in Jenga, we want to live in a balanced way, so we want to live biblically faithful lives, but then we unintentionally or even sometimes intentionally remove aspects of the ideal Christian life, and then we try to balance that piece somewhere else where it was never intended to go, and so we feel like our whole Christian life is just waiting to come crashing down.

Have you ever felt that way?

And the unfortunate reality for most sermons is that it’s often difficult for preachers to biblically balance grace and works in one sermon. When we emphasize one, we tend to deemphasize the other. When we focus on grace, we seem to imply that works don’t matter, and when we focus on works, we seem to imply that we need more than just grace.

But it’s interesting that in this passage, Paul emphasizes both grace and works. In particular, he writes that the basis for all of our God-glorifying works is faith in God’s grace, just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:16.

let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

James wrote later that our faith and works work together, and our faith is made complete by what we do. But in order to understand how all that works, we need to have a proper understanding of the gospel.

So in our passage this morning, Paul first does a refresher on the gospel. Verse 1.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

So the beginning of Romans chapter 8 summarizes a lot of what Paul had written up to this point. It starts with the word “therefore,” which in this case refers to pretty much all of chapters 1 through 7. Even though all have sinned, Romans 3:23, God demonstrated His love for sinners by sending Jesus to die for us, Romans 5:8, so that even though the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, and therefore, Romans 8:1, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

You see, when Jesus died, He completely took the penalty of sin upon Himself for those who would have faith in Him. What we could not do, and what even God’s perfect law could not do for us because of our weakness, God Himself did. Rather than condemning us, He condemned our sin. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

This is gospel. We sinned, but Jesus saves.

So, at the moment when you place your faith in Jesus, from then on, God does not count your sins against you. There is no condemnation for you.

Now, when the Bible talks about condemnation, it’s talking about at least two things. Usually, we only ever consider one of them. Usually when we hear the Bible talk about condemnation, we think about hell. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said to the goats in Matthew 25:41:

“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matthew 25:41)

So those who refuse to trust in Jesus in this life will experience the condemnation of hell in the life to come. Sin has consequences, and unforgiven sin must be punished. But that’s only the first condemnation that the Bible talks about.

The second way the Bible talks about condemnation is that of a person’s lifestyle. Jesus continued saying to the goats in the parable:

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn’t take me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of me.” Then they too will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:42-46)

It’s interesting to me that when most Christians read the parable of the sheep and the goats, we always assume that we’re the righteous sheep. It’s in our nature as human beings to always assume we’re the good guys. We all do this!

But I simply want to point out that the righteous sheep in this parable aren’t characterized by their faith, but by their righteous actions. Nowhere in the parable of the sheep and the goats do we find that the sheep would inherit eternal life because they prayed a prayer and trusted in the Savior. Instead, we find that those who would inherit eternal life are the ones who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and took care of the sick and those in prison. And those who did not do these things were the ones who were condemned.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that the Bible teaches that we must earn heaven through our works. The Bible is abundantly clear that we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone. But faith in God’s grace ought to cause us to rejoice and begin to live a lifestyle of repentance.

So we find in the parable of the sheep and the goats not only a warning about hell, but a warning about a lifestyle of sin. Those who refuse to trust in Jesus are condemned to continue living a lifestyle of sin, and it’s only through the saving grace of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit, that you can break free from the strongholds of sin and Satan. When you come to trust in Jesus, there is now no condemnation for you.

That means that you’re free. And this is what that freedom looks like. Verse 5.

For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)

So this is the mindset that God calls us to have. It’s a mindset that leads to life and peace. It’s a mindset focused on the things of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

These are the things of the Spirit, which the Spirit begins to work more and more in your life as your follow Jesus.

There’s also Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any more excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

These are the kinds of things that we ought to be thinking about. True things. Honorable things. Just things. Pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. When we allow our minds to dwell on the opposite things, like temptations and sins, we’re focusing on the things of the flesh, but when we dwell on these things, we’re focusing on the things of the Spirit.

So, if you’ve confessed Jesus as your Savior and Lord, are you in the course of your life setting your mind on the things of the flesh, or the things of the Spirit? Only one of these mindsets shows that you belong to Jesus.

You see, Paul is encouraging us not only to be thankful for being free from the penalty of sin, but to be empowered to now glorify God by living a lifestyle of praise. We talked a couple weeks ago about how it’s impossible for us to do good in the flesh. But now, we read that God’s Spirit lives in us and makes us alive! Verse 10.

Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:10-13)

So while our works can’t save us, they do say something about us. If we still have our minds focused on worldly things, we’re living like we’ve never trusted in Jesus. But a person who has trusted in Jesus will begin to live in the freedom that they have in Jesus.

This is how that practically looks. Dwelling on the things of the flesh is like only thinking about the things that benefit you and your body. It’s primarily thinking about food, or money, or material things, or even thinking about relationships that are advantageous to you. It’s thinking about all the things of this life that are so temporary, and having a “what’s in it for me” mentality. But setting your mind on the things of the Spirit is when you begin to think more about how to glorify God. It’s things like serving not yourself, but your neighbor. And if you’ve truly placed your faith in Christ, then you’ll see this as more and more of a reality in your life. God will give life to your mortal bodies.

We’re going to see Paul talking about this concept more and more in various ways over the next few chapters. But it comes down to this: are you willing to crucify your flesh, so that you can truly live?

What if, in the Game of Life, you weren’t encouraged to live “Your Life, Your Way,” but your life, God’s way? And what if we all chose what to do not based on what we thought we had to do in order to win, but based on what was truly right and good? What if instead of trying to beat others, we desired to win together, loving our neighbor as ourselves? I think the Game of Life might be an entirely different game at that point. In fact, I don’t think it would be a game at all. It would just be life: eternal life, in which we love God, and love one another.

To some, because of sin and selfishness, serving God and others sounds like hell. But God loves you, and wants you to experience true life and peace by resting and rejoicing in Jesus.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Romans 8:1-13
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