Is your memory essential to your identity?
A person who has lost their memory through illness or injury has suffered a tragedy but they have not lost all their identity.
But we would all probably agree that our stories/history (stored as memory) are very important parts of our identity (who we are)
But we sometimes speak of “remembering” things that didn’t happen to us.
For instance, we talk about “remembering those who died in war”
Or tomorrow… “remember the service of those who have served in the armed forces.”
We can, honor someone else’s story…without confusing it with our own.
Often, we do so because their story has impacted ours…WWII veterans, or parents, mentors who have died.
But the Bible takes this idea of a “shared story” to another level…a level where another’s memories are to become in a real way…our own shared memories.
Exodus 13 Israel had been rescued from slavery and Moses instituted a lasting memorial…
Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.” And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.
This is repeated to this day…as it was meant to be done.
What is interesting is the blending of “my memory” and the memory of another.
Look at the wording…it’s not… “the Lord brought them out” but he “brought me out.”
Generations were to read this to their families as a part of celebrating Passover…not just the ones who could literally say “he brought me out” but generations later were to say that same thing…in first person.
So, God wanted them to see what he had done for his people in the past as being in a sense their own memories.
The night that Jesus was betrayed he was celebrating the Passover meal with his closest friends and he told them as they ate the bread and drank the wine… “Do this in remembrance of me”
It has become, as the Lord intended, a lasting act of remembering.
In that remembering…we are not merely “reflecting” …and being grateful for a deceased person…like Memorial Day …we are demonstrating that we are actual participants in Christ’s death.
He is alive, his death brought life to us.
We are “in” his story…because we are “in him.”
November we are looking at the four pillars of human resiliency…last week, physical…this week, spiritual
The other two are mental and relational…and were doing this from the perspective of fostering gratitude…thankfulness is essential to resiliency in all its forms.
The four pillars, are in reality…distinct things but mixed together in our lives like stew…they impact and interact with one another.
Our passage for today is Romans 8
8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Romans chapter 8 is about the security of God’s children.
The chapter begins with there is “no condemnation” and ends with there will be “no separation”
This security flows from a new identity…who we are now “in Christ” are forever secure.
If you are “in Christ” you are not condemned (you are the opposite of condemned you are justified”)
This is what Paul has outlined clearly in the proceeding 7 chapters…so “therefore” …those who are “in Christ” are not condemned, they are justified…there is now no condemnation.
Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” 119 times in his letters.
To be “in Christ” is to have believed the gospel (what he did and who he is… his life, death, resurrection, eternal reign) and to have transferred trust to him away from self in order to be saved.
Biblically, salvation is not just “you won’t go to hell when you die” …it is “you now and forever have had relationship with God restored to you…eternal life (different kind of living…starts now)
Don’t miss this point…the gospel is not just information believed, it is a new life received…transformation of all that makes us, us.
The old is gone (or going) and the new has come.
Christians sometimes talk of not wanting to do things in their “own strength” but rather to “rely on God” …this is not wrong thinking in itself.
But sometimes it means that we want God to infuse us with power…a shot of super-strength to enhance our own wills…to make us a stronger “us”
Better able to face temptation, to become nicer people, be more spiritual…whatever.
But our flesh (our “selves” apart from God) doesn’t need God’s help…doesn’t need strength to do better…it needs to be killed.
We need our old lives to be substituted with his divine, eternal life.
It’s nuanced…we are still us…but we are to become a “me” that is now “Christ in me” or “Me in Christ” as it is stated here.
I know this sounds a bit odd…or impractical…what does this even mean for my life?
I don’t pretend to understand it well…though I have been trying for a long time.
I have, however, experienced it myself and I have seen it at work in others…how being in Christ (not merely trying harder) …is powerful and transformational and relational.
I understand it a little…like a child grasping just a bit of adult ideas.
Spiritual resiliency in the military construct is defined as “living for something greater than yourself.”
It can be, and often is in that construct void of any real truth of God
But Biblically all humans are “spiritual” …even if they claim to be an atheist.
What this means…we are not just “matter” in a certain form…we are “spiritual/physical” beings…regardless of what we think about ourselves.
But real spiritual resiliency…an understanding of who God is and who we are and what relationship with God looks like…is all tied up in the gospel.
It is about understanding and living a life “in Christ.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
To become more spiritually resilient…to thrive as a human as God has designed us…we must believe the facts of the Gospel…Jesus lived, died, rose, will return and reign.
But beyond learning the facts of faith…we must be learning to live life “in Christ”
We are spiritual beings and we are physical beings…the lives we live in these bodies, we are to live by faith in Jesus…this has real and practical implications.
So, we go to church, we read our Bibles, we turn from evil acts, thoughts, words…but we don’t do this to impress others or to earn something from God.
We do things like this…because we realize we have a new identity…we are “in Christ.”
We want to more and more enjoy and express…this new identity.
We are new creations…we are not the same as we were before.
However, we are not fully formed… we are being transformed.
So, we live in this “already” tense…we are new creations
We live in the “not yet” tense…we have not yet been made perfect.
So we do what we do…because we want this live more fully in this new life…I do.
Look at verse 2
2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death
There is no condemnation for those who are in “Christ” because through Christ “the law of the Spirit of life” (the gospel)
…Has set us free from the “law of sin and death” …the inevitability that those who sin will die.
Grace has freed me from the inevitability of death (separation from God) that my sin deserves.
“Law” here is not like “speed limit 55” but law of “gravity” …a controlling power
I am now living under the controlling power of the gospel…not of sin and death.
- For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature; God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
The truth of God…what is right and good and real…the Law…didn’t have power to change us…because we lacked the power to live it out.
Like pouring gasoline into a gas tank…but there is no engine in car…nothing to ignite the gas and move the vehicle forward.
That’s why we don’t just need God to help us…we need him to transform us…on our own we lack the engine…the engine in us is Christ in us.
Jesus had the power…he had an engine, that we don’t.
And now in him, in relationship with him…his history is our history…what he did…in him, we experience…we reap the benefits of.
Let’s skip down to verse 9
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Paul wrote of the hostility to God that defines those whose minds are set on the “flesh” (a life lived independently of God)
You(believers)…however…are not under the control of the sinful nature but rather of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is in you because Christ is in you.
You continue to live, for now, in a body suffering from the impact of sin…but your spirit is eternally alive…and someday your physical body will resurrect even as Christ’s did…PRESENT REALITY SHAPED BY FUTURE HOPE.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.
This phrase…Spirit of “sonship” is not excluding women.
This is talking about Jesus not our genders.
The Spirit of sonship…means that we all, male and female alike…have received the Spirit of the Son of God.
And this Spirit brings power for a different life and power to live without being controlled by fear.
We do not fear being abandoned by God…even when life is difficult and confusing.
And by him (as a result of Christ in us, his story is our story) we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Abba is “Aramaic for Father…or Daddy”
This phrase is heartwarming on the surface…the idea that we can call God “Daddy”
But it can be terrifying if you think of it in its context.
Jesus cried out “Abba, Father” as he was in agony of soul in the garden of Gethsemane before he died.
He was pleading with God to remove the cup from him…thinking about the coming cross…and yet submitting to his Father’s will.
That is the context here…The Spirit is confirming that we are God’s children…why is this necessary…why is this so important…shouldn’t it be obvious that we are his kids?
No, not always.
Sometimes cry “Abba, Father” like Jesus in the Garden…“Take this cup from me.”
“Change this, do something else than what are you doing?” “I don’t like this, or want this.”
We have the Spirit in us…Jesus in us…so we can respond…even during these times, like he did… “Father take this from me…but not my will but yours”
Our troubles in this life can make us wonder…are we his kids?
If so…who treats their kids like this? Has he forsaken me?
No, the Holy Spirit in us…testifies…confirms…we belong to God…he has not abandoned us.
So, Paul looked back to the cross and now he looks forward to the future…to understand trouble in the present.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
In another place Paul wrote that “Our light and momentary afflictions are achieving a weight of glory that far outweighs them all”
We are often dismayed and confused by trouble in our lives and the lives of others…they do not seem light and momentary…them seem heavy and long.
So, we are prone to ask…
Does this mean God is not there?
Does it mean God doesn’t care?
Is the problem with me…where have I gone wrong?
The problem is with everything…
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
All of creation groans under the strain of sin.
We groan as we wait for the future hope to be fulfilled.
Our salvation in Christ has already began…we have the first fruits of the Spirit…we have a down payment guaranteeing what is to come.
But for now…our greatest hope is a future one…and we must wait patiently for it.
The word translated “patience” is “hupomone”…endurance.
It’s not the patience of a man lounging by a pond…waiting for a fish to bite.
It is the patient endurance of a warrior…active…marching waiting…not passive waiting.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Do you ever wonder what to pray? How to pray?
Do you ever think “Why even pray?”
God isn’t doing what you ask anyway…why ask anymore?
My grandson told me one time… “God doesn’t answer my prayers.”
*Of course he doesn’t answer all of them…can you imagine the disaster that would be?
-If you can’t imagine, go ask a 7 year old what he would want if he could have anything.
But you are not 7 and it’s likely you have had times…when all you could you muster in prayer was a painful “sigh” or “groan.”
I don’t know all that this verse means…but it is very intimate, powerful, helpful
The context is suffering and weakness…not even knowing what to say or pray.
The context is intimate relationship…God searching our hearts, God’s Spirit in us…interceding on our behalf.
Somehow…in ways I don’t understand but I do appreciate…the Spirit in us prays for us…when we don’t have the words.
Then one the most famous of all Bible verses
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Many things have been written and said and believed about this verse.
I will quote Grant Ma-caskill “Living in Union with Christ” regarding verses 26-28.
“We are not inert victims of providence but are prayerful participants because of the reality of the Spirit. God graciously and lovingly involves us in his work, just as fathers often do with their work.”
What is this final good…what is this purpose to which we have been called?
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
This is strong word of security in spite of the insecurities that our lives now often consist of.
All that he calls and justifies…he glorified (a future fact spoken of as a past act)
For God all time is now…our future is secure now.
This is our confidence in the face of life’s difficulties.
Romans 8:28 does not say “everything will be fine”…your sufferings in this life…will demonstrate their purpose in this life…it will all work out in time…not always.
Some won’t work out until eternity.
This verse says God will take all that happens and it will serve the ultimate purpose of us becoming like Christ…a higher good than this could not be imagined.
Though that is hard to imagine how this can be so when we are suffering.
Look at the verses that follow…
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
People can become confused about this verse (God will give us all things) because of two things:
-They read it out of the larger context we have seen here…a context of “Abba, take this cup from me…but not my will but yours be done”
-It’s not…give me all that I want…even if I don’t really want what you.
-They have failed to understand the gospel is not primarily about the good life now (as defined by those who in fact far from God in their minds and values).
Jesus said…don’t store treasures on earth…that turn to rust and dust…they are not real treasures.
The good life, now and forever…is relationship with Jesus.
33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Again…the context for confidence here is within a lot of difficult life circumstances.
Paul’s exhortation to see that God has not abandoned us would make no sense in this chapter…if life did not threaten our faith…if circumstances did not confuse us at times.
He is speaking to us about confidence in God…when life is conspiring to shake that very confidence.
As I said, the chapter begins with “No condemnation” and it ends with “No separation”…for the one who is “in Christ Jesus”…this is a call to confidence in Christ…when we need it the most.
I said this would get practical, let’s try to go there now
Two points of application:
- If you are in Christ…you can change…because you are changed.
The change in you is real and powerful…but it is a potential that must be made actual.
The Holy Spirit lives in you…bringing power for transformation.
But we must actually believe this and take actions to live in step with the Spirit.
If you have given up on becoming a man or woman who consistently exhibits the fruits of the Spirit…you should rethink that.
Perhaps you have tried to merely exert more pressure on your will and have failed.
-This doesn’t work well
But change is real and possible…let me try an analogy.
Imagine a marriage…Where the husband becomes determined to do things that are supposed to be good for the relationship. He does this to impress others or he thinks he’s supposed to or he is not wanting to fail.
-Says the kind words
-Bring the gifts
-Spends the time
-Shows physical affection…pat, kiss, hug
-Does things around the house
But if in his heart and mind…he fails to see that these are means to a greater end…that his purpose for all he does…is to love his wife…to train himself to love her heart and soul, for her to experience his love.
These things will have no real effect on building real relationship.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ…settled fact.
If you have trusted Christ…you are accepted by God…period.
Now do the good work that true love does…but do it because you love and are loved…not to impress, or to not feel guilty, or any other eason.
Give, serve, sacrifice, discipline…with gratitude…these are the things that enhance love and build relationship.
Let gratitude not guilt or duty drive your disciplines of love for Christ…you will begin to change.
- Second application, Hold confidently to what God has promised…let go what he has not.
He has promised…no condemnation, no separation…he has not promised a trouble free life.
Mark heard, songwriter who died a few year ago has a line from a song that goes like this:
“Our hopes fall round our feet like the dust of dead leaves, and we end up looking like what we believe.”
This line means that eventually…what we have believed about life, ourselves, God…is what shapes us…and our beliefs, our hopes will be tested.
What happens to our hope…when we have believed that the gospel is really about God existing for me rather than I exist for him?
I do the stuff he wants…so he will give me what I want.
If we are training ourselves to believe that God exists for our benefit…and his promises are mostly are for this life…we are setting ourselves up for real struggle when life gets hard and confusing.
If you, or someone you care about is currently experiencing a time of real suffering…there is no “easy fix” no easy answer…but the biblical theme is to turn continually to the Cross of Christ.
To remember that my suffering has meaning in his suffering…I don’t have to understand how this is so but I must understand that this is so.
The Bible consistently and clearly directs us to the gospel…the life, death, resurrection of Christ to find courage in our own suffering.
Gratitude for the Cross…shapes our lives in powerful ways.
Spiritual resilience is tied to biblical reality…do not try to claim what God has not promised…you will be disappointed.
-But cling resolutely to what he has promised you.
A application, you might want to try this week…“look at yourself in the mirror and ask…what do you want?”
“Terry…what do you want?”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” Phil. 3:10
You say…“I don’t want that…that’s scary…hard…I don’t want to suffer, I don’t even want to die.”
But you see…we will suffer and we will die…God offers us purpose, found in relationship…through all of it.
To turn away Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings…does not protect us from difficulty…it just keeps us from meaning and hope.
Let’s stand and read these passages together…
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.