Can We Have Comfort? — Lords Day 1
// September 14th, 2011 // Sermons
Maybe in your case it’s approval. You will do whatever it takes so that you don’t look like an idiot. You are so worried about being rejected that you will either follow along with the crowd or lead the crowd. Seeking after approval can be one of the biggest addictions there is and it will leave you locked behind bars wondering how to get out. Maybe it is the need to be loved. You will go wherever you need to go, do whatever you need to do, to feel loved by someone. In the end you find yourself in a position that you never thought you’d be in. All the while wondering how you got there and how you will get out. What about success? You find yourself devoting your entire life to being successful, to being on top. You think that as long as you make enough money, you will be happy. Then when you don’t make the cut on the team, or you get fired from your job, or fail that test, your whole world comes tumbling down and you are left wondering what happened and how do I get out of this mess.
This is exactly where we find Paul in our passage today. Take a look at Romans 7:21-23a:
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.
Paul will all of his heart wants to do what is right, what God requires of him, but there seems to be something inside him that keeps him from getting there. He is saying, “I love God’s law and I want to do what is right. What is wrong with me? There is something else that is keeping me from doing what I want to do.” That is almost word for word what that girl told me isn’t it? Have you ever found yourself there? Struggling to do what is right but feeling completely inadequate of actually doing it? Galatians 5:17 talks about this same feeling. It says:
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
There is a battle that is raging within us and all too often we pretend that it isn’t there. You can’t ignore a battle and then hope that you are going to win it. You need to fight back.
In verse 23-24, Paul describes how this battle can affect us. He says:
But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God that Paul doesn’t end his thought there. He doesn’t leave us in that hopeless state. He helps us see where our true comfort should come from. He ends chapter 7 by saying:
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then in chapter 8 verse 1 he says:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Wow!! What comfort it is to know that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus and that we can be freed from the vicious cycle of hopelessness! But wait, these verses qualify that statement. They say that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus “for those who belong to” him. They say that there is freedom from hopelessness “for those who belong to” him. If that is the comfort we are seeking, if that is where we will find our ultimate comfort, we need to understand what it means to “belong to Christ Jesus.” That is the only way we will escape from the prison that we find ourselves in.
We don’t have to go much farther than verse 9 of chapter 8 to get a description of someone who doesn’t belong to Christ Jesus. It says:
And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.
This verse is saying that in order to belong to Christ, we must have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) living in us. Do you have the Holy Spirit living in you? How do you know if you do? Take a look at Ephesians 1:13:
And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.
So in order to belong to Christ we must have the Spirit living in us and according to the verse we just read, in order for us to be given the Holy Spirit, we must believe in Christ and what he did for us on the cross.
In our catechism there is a beautiful answer to this question. It ask, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” Before I go on to the answer it gives, let me ask you another question. If you reject Christ, how would you answer this? Is it even possible to answer this question apart from Christ? I would say NO. You will find no comfort apart from Jesus Christ. Here is the answer that the catechism gives:
That I am not my own, but belong; body and soul, in life and in death; to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Our only comfort is that we are not our own, if we belong to Christ. What an amazing thing to understand that “we are not our own.” This truly brings comfort, peace, and satisfaction.
Left to ourselves we are left hopeless and searching for something–someone– to break us free from the prison we are in. We need someone to help us fight the battle that is raging within us. We are completely unable to do it on our own. You need the believe in what Christ has done for you on the cross. You need to believe that he died a miserable death for miserable people so that our condemnation could be removed from us. You need to understand that you don’t deserve any of this, yet God loved you so much that he did it anyway. Once you believe this, you will be saved and you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then watch what the Spirit can do in your life. The Spirit fills you and then begins to fight the battle for you. Like in Romans 8:2 says:
And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Because you belong to Christ, the Spirit will come in and break you free from the prison you are in. You no longer have to worry about hopelessness because you have someone fighting for you. You now have the power to fight back.
Remember that the only way you receive this is if you belong to Christ. Our catechism answers this question too. Is asks, “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” It then answers the question by saying:
Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.
I want to close with two challenges. One for the believers in the group and one for the non-believers. If you are a believer, hear the words that Peter has to say in 1 Peter 2:9-11:
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.
Live your life in a way that reflects the freedom you have in Christ. Live your life in a way that shows that “you are not your own” that you are “God’s possession.” Live you life in a way that shows those around you appreciate the mercy that God has given you. If you don’t feel freed from the bondage of sin that leads to death, what needs to change in your life?
For those of you who are not believers, I want you to consider why you aren’t. Why haven’t you given your life over to Christ? What is holding you back? Is there a good reason? Do you want to be stuck in the prison you are in? If you are in a place where you realize you need the comfort that is offered to you at the cross, go there. Submit your life to Jesus and follow Him with everything that you have. I promise that you won’t regret it. The cross is the only place you will find comfort!
If you are not a follower of Christ and you still don’t think you need the comfort that is offered to you, ask yourself, “Where are you going to find true happiness and comfort?” I guarantee that you won’t find it in friends and girlfriends, alcohol or drugs, success and money. They all come and go like the seasons. You will never find a lasting comfort in anything that is less than eternal!