We move this morning to the last of our four part sermon series on the letter to the Romans we’ve called Good news from a good God explaining the Christian good news repent, believe, ask receive so today’s sub heading is receive.
Being last Sunday of the month it’s Prayer Book at 8 o’clock and our set reading is actually Romans 6, though our series so far has moved through Chapters 7 and 8 in the Common Worship Lectionary – no matter, the preacher has to make the best of these contingencies!
Last Sunday we reflected on Paul’s opening up in Romans 8 of how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has rewritten the history of the cosmos bringing us all a purpose for living and a reason for dying. The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21 As Christians we are joined to a body and a cause that will outlive us, God’s forever family, the holy, catholic church which is God’s chosen instrument for bringing the cosmos out of its bondage to decay and into an incorruptible and glorious fulfilment.
The Christian good news is that God has made us for that glory but sin has come into our lives as a spoiler. As we repent of our sin and put faith in Jesus the spoiler goes and we ask for and receive an inextinguishable hope. This is something we need to hold onto. However much we see the church ‘put down’ in our society there is no where else that you’ll find a body so forward looking as the church of Jesus Christ!
‘Church pride’ - this to a degree is what Paul is getting at in calling back disciples to first principles.
Know ye not he says – listen to the man! Know ye not – have you forgotten - that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
So much of preaching, so much of Christianity, is reminder. There’s really nothing new in Christianity, only the call to enter more profoundly into the depth of its profound truth.
Jesus died – we must die to our sinful nature.
Jesus rose – we must rise to our new nature which is life in the Spirit.
Paul at the end of our reading this morning speaks of Jesus: Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Then the twist – the application where Paul moves from speaking of Jesus to speaking of you and I: Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If you read through Romans, or indeed the whole of Paul, you see talk of Christ indwelling us and sin indwelling us. Romans 6 on baptism is followed by Romans 7 on sin’s indwelling and Romans 8 on Christ’s indwelling.
Are there strategies that can help us live more to Christ and less to sin? There’s one I’ll mention and it’s the Jesus prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
This is a prayer people have prayed for 15 centuries and it’s one that priorities Christ within us over sin within us. It’s beautifully simple, clear and direct.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
When we see temptation to sin rising in us, when we see the unrighteous anger mentioned in the holy Gospel today rising up within – that’s the time to reckon yourself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I am baptised – sin has no place in me! It does in practice, but affirming the principle outlined in that verse of Romans has power, as does the Jesus Prayer, in times of temptation: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
The continuous recitation of the Jesus prayer is a counter to all the base aspirations in me. It is a form of spiritual warfare as vividly described in these words from 6th century Saint John of the Ladder: Flog the foes with the name of Jesus; for there is no stronger weapon against them either in heaven or on earth.
The use of the Jesus Prayer enables us to flog our spiritual foes. Its use as an arrow prayer helps bridge the gap between prayer in church or alone and the normal activities of life. When I say Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner I am aware of the power that lies in the name of Jesus, especially as it engages with my base thoughts and desires. The prayer helps me receive and implement the aspiration of Romans we’ve been looking at this month: to reckon yourself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The letter to the Romans is good news from a good God who sees and loves us through and through.
Repent, believe, ask receive he says.
Repent – turn to me in away from the inner storm of temptation.
Believe I Jesus am with you and in you.
Ask me to act on your behalf when you feel overwhelmed.
Receive the assurance of my love.
Listen to Paul again on Christ’s love, this time from the end of Romans 8: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.