Hope on a bathroom stall
• Romans 8:1-17
This weekend I traveled to my hometown for a restful time celebrating our nation's independence. It was a good time with my loved ones and friends who I have not seen much lately. On the way back down to Alabama, where I'm currently living, I stopped over in Springville to get some gas and stretch my legs.
While I was getting gas, I decided to take advantage of being stopped for the moment (I am notorious for wanting to go "straight through" with the smallest amount of stops possible): I went to use the restroom.
Now for you ladies out there, you may have never seen this in your experiences -- having never been inside a women's restroom in a gas station, I am unsure what they look like. But, at least as far as the men's restrooms, I am somewhat of a lay expert. Usually, someone has taken it upon themselves, particularly in metropolitan areas, to scribble something on the wall or the bathroom stall. Those scribbles tend to be on the vulgar side.
Not in Springville, though. Yes, there were the usual vulgar expressions, but there was also a striking example of someone striking back for the Kingdom (though I'm sure the staff at the Shell station would have preferred feeding the poor to scrawling on their wall). Someone had written, next to some vulgar sexual remark, Romans 8:6.
"To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."
After returning outside, I was intrigued. I know that I have read Romans thousands of times. And I know that I have read that verse before. But it struck me like a thunderbolt. How true that short, proverbial sounding verse is.
How many times have we abandoned the great promises of God and ignored the time-stopping, death-killing proclamation from Heaven's throne, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!"
God is jumping up and down and saying, "Look! I took care of it! You can come home now! I paid the price!" No more are we exiled from Eden, but we're prodigals with engraved invitations.
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
The new law -- the fulfilled law of God -- is that, in the language of C.S. Lewis, the Deep Magic which requires a traitor's blood has been appeased: God's just law, that sinners deserve death, has been met. The punishment was meted out. The fine was paid. The jail time was served.
And now, we get the opportunity to accept God's gift and become a part of Christ Jesus so that, in Him, there is "therefore now no condemnation."
So for those of us who have claimed God's free gift of salvation, "Christ is in you, [and] though the body is dead because of sin," even though our flesh is still subject to temptation and failure, "the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." We don't have to suffer the temptation. If Christ dwells in us, we are no longer bound to the chains of death and temptation.
How many times has Satan whispered into your ear that you're never going to stop sinning? How many times has the Deceiver tried to get you to think God is frustrated with your failure to conform to Christ's example? Every time we fall, we get frustrated with ourselves and with our annoying and infernal tendency to get back up, thank God for our salvation, and go and sin again.
But the Word of Truth belies the Evil One's counsel: "he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." Because the Third Person of the Trinity dwells in us, believers, we can call on the Power of God to nourish us against the temptations and snares of this world!
The life that God promises is not just eternal life after our earthly death. God has promised, in today's passage, that the Holy Spirit will set our mind on life -- on things of the Spirit. God strengthens, not us. It is not our own strength upon which we are called to rely.
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God," all of those who have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, "are children of God." Each of us who have believed has been incorporated into God's Family. "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption." The Evil One would have us cower from our sin and flee from temptation. But, thanks be to God, "[w]hen we cry, '[Daddy]! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God."
And God doesn't let anyone mess with his children. He is the Almighty, El Shaddai, the Lord of Hosts, the High and Awesome Creator and Father of all. "[A]nd if children [of God], then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ -- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."
God, through Jesus Christ, has given each of us an opportunity to take the filthy bathroom stall upon which are written our failures, our weaknesses, our secret sins, and have them covered over, like the bathroom in Springville, with the Great Truth of Romans 8:6. Setting one's mind on the things of the flesh is death. It is hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.
When we are adopted by God our Father, our soul is flooded with God's Holy Spirit, and we are given power to live, truly live, in peace.
God our Father, Daddy: we confess that we sometimes listen when doubt whispers that your love has limits. We give you glory that you have purchased for yourself all those who would call upon your name. We praise your power and holy might which gives us hope and peace. Help us, Lord, to listen for the voice of your Holy Spirit. Draw us closer to you, and help us to live in the liberty that Christ bought for us on the cross. Thank you, God, for sending Jesus to die and to be raised up for us; thank you, Lord, for sending your Spirit to live inside of us as a promise that we are yours; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.