Romans 7:1-13                “New Spiritual Life”

 

            This passage from Romans that Paul writes troubles me a little bit because I am afraid that my wife might get some ideas! Paul talks about marriage and how it is that after the man dies, the wife is free from the rules of marriage. That might be an enticement for my wife to see if I might succumb before my time! I have mentioned to her that with the pension and life insurance policy that I would certainly be worth more to her dead than alive.

            I am amazed that Saint Paul uses this analogy of marriage to talk about our relationship with Christ. And, yes, that is what this passage is about at its core. If you leave here today only with the suspicion that Helen wants to have me rubbed out, then you will have missed the main point indeed!  And, please do not go to Helen later and say, “Yes, it might be better for you if you have your husband taken out.” (lol)

            The Apostle Paul was never married. In other places in the bible he discourages anyone from getting married. Let us quickly look at 1 Corinthians 7:27, “Are you bound to a wife, then do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” Please read the entire chapter for context on this because Paul was worried that the end time was coming so soon that we should not even be thinking about getting married and having children who would then have to go through the tribulation.  We have to understand his position on this point.

            So, Paul is really not so much in favor of marriage and has never experienced it himself. Yet, he uses the idea of marriage to Christ so much in the Bible that we are confounded. Of course, Christ himself used this analogy all the time that he is the bridegroom, and that we (the church) are the bride. Check out Matthew 9:15,  “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

 

            Now before we get too far away from our original text in Romans 7, let us look closely at verse 5: “While we were living in the flesh. . .” Isn’t that a curious notion. It suggests that we are no longer living in the flesh. When we think about marriage, we always talk about “two flesh becoming one.” But, Paul is not talking about the physical; he is talking about the spiritual marriage between us and Christ.

            By the way, the term is actually “flesh” in the Bible. Some Bibles do not use that term; however, it is actually in the Greek as σαρκος, “flesh.” Paul is basically saying that he is no longer in his own body. He is now a spiritual being.  How is that possible? He is obviously still alive while writing the letter.

 

            Let me ask you earnestly than this question: This morning are you in the flesh or in the spirit?

            On Wednesday night Rick was over at our house. He mentioned how it is that he still senses the people who have died that used to come to church with us here. “They are still a part of our church,” he said.

            I do believe myself in the idea of the spiritual witness of those who have gone on before still being with us and helping us in this church. The love of our fellow christians never dies. It is in heaven. It is in our hearts.

            Ruth Cassell used to complain about the spirit she saw up in the balcony when she practiced the organ alone. One of our youth, Merrick, says that he saw a spirit come out of the graveyard and come through the window once during worship.

            The answer to the question of whether we are in the spirit or in the flesh right now is therefore “yes,” yes we are. We are either/or and both/and. When we accepted Jesus into our lives, mostly through baptism, we gained a new spiritual life, the life everlasting that Jesus gave through His grace.

 

            I need to speak about this “New Life in the Spirit” because, if for no other reason, I made it the sermon title in the bulletin. Ha ha. How do we know we have this new life in the Spirit? When I get up in the morning, how is my life different now?

1)      Confession/Introspection/Self-Exploration. The very fact that you ask serious questions about your life tells the world that you are indeed different. You see, people who just live in the flesh, or just in the old non-spiritual life, have no reason to look up to heaven and ask God “How am I doing today, Lord?” God, what are you doing in my life today that is going to impact me spiritually.

2)      Prayer. The spiritual life means that you are communicating with the Spirit. You see, you can go buy a whole bunch of self-help books, go to the 12-step programs, or spill your guts to a bartender even; but if you are in the spiritual life, that means you are talking with the Creator of the Universe about your own life. But, you are not just talking about YOU, but also the other people in your life, whom you should also see in a spiritual sense. Most of our time in prayer should be focused on the needs of others collectively.

3)      Connect with Others. This can mean going to church, bible study, or prayer group. This is about connecting spiritually with others. Praying together. When I go to the pool in Waimea to swim laps. Sometimes I forget that even the guy I find has taken my lane is also a spiritual being! Connect with all in a spiritual way. Make sure others know that you are a Christian. Even while you are driving.

4)      Be Authentic.  Find your true self in Christ. In the Ten Commandments is that wonderful 9th commandment that says “Do not bear false witness.” I think that is more than an admonition to tell the truth in our lives, but to tell the truth OF our lives. In modern human resources this is being called a “soft skill.” Since when is being true to yourself a “soft skill”? I think it means being hard on yourself sometimes. As tempting as it might be, do not hit the “enhance image” button on your social media account profile picture. Take a picture of yourself reading the bible and post that!

5)      Have Love and Compassion. Really? Does this need any explanation?!

6)      Mindset of Abundance and Gratitude. We just celebrated the 4th of July. On that day I was reminded that I have been blessed in my life by having been raised in the most advanced, economically powerful, secure country that has ever existed on this planet. On top of that, I live in the most beautiful part of that country! I have freedoms that are unparalleled. I can go anywhere, do anything, say anything. I have more than enough to eat and plenty of really fine coffee to wash it down with. I have the faith of Jesus Christ most of all. I thank God!

7)      Cultivate Forgiveness. With all that I have said so far, the one thing that is going to ruin my spiritual life is if I have hatred and evil thoughts against my spiritual neighbors. People are going to hurt you in this life–forgive them. Let the pain go finally. For your own sake and spiritual health, forgive. That is what Jesus did on the Cross. That is what we pray in the Lord’s prayer. And know, that you have also hurt others in this life, but that they have forgiven you. So, now you can even forgive yourself!

8)      Do Good! This be the one I struggle with–at least this last few weeks. Up until this last Monday the Church was insured with a company called “Church Mutual Insurance.” That company’s motto is “For the Greater Good.” Well, they pulled out of the state of Hawaii and only gave as a month’s notice–a non-renewal note. I am left pondering, “How is that for the Greater Good?” They could have at least given us 90 days to find another insurance provider! We are now insured by UCCIB. All they have as a motto is “Partners in Protection.” That is good enough for me. Do not talk about good–do it!

                       

           

            So, please see your life today not as if you are only flesh. See your life in the spirit. Once we were only of the flesh, but because of Christ we are dead to that kind of lonely existence. We are now alive in the Spirit.

           

            So, now that we are living in the spirit, death has no meaning for us, what about those who have died before us? Are we not still living in the Spirit with those who have gone before? Yes! We are one in the Spirit of Christ who has gone before us. We are one with all those who share in the Holy Spirit.

            This church is not just all of us sitting here now. We are also the spirits that have worshiped here before us and those that will worship here after us. The spiritual world is never ending. We are the church everlasting. We are not this building, but the spiritual lives of us all coming together in this place.

 

            The world is a better place because we are made new through the Spirit. We need to treasure one another as true brothers and sisters of the faith. We need to hold onto to our special relationship with Christ.

 

Amen.