The Victory That Supports The Sacred

June 9, 2024 Speaker: Ray Lorthioir Series: Sermons 2024

Passage: Romans 8:3–4, Philippians 2:5–11

Sermon 6-9-24

Pastor Ray Lorthioir

Trinity Lutheran Church

W. Hempstead, NY

Incorporates the Gospel Lesson for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.

Features Romans 8:3-4.


The Victory That Supports The Sacred

Contemplating the worldwide uproar he and the three other young men who called themselves The Beatles had created, John Lennon once opined that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. That was possibly true at the time. But, John Lennon hasn’t written a song in 44 years because he’s been dead for 44 years. And this year is the sixtieth anniversary of the Beatles taking America by storm. Yet, no one really seems to care. On there other hand, Jesus is more well known than ever.

Notice I didn’t say popular. Indeed, in the Gospel lesson we just read, knowledge of Jesus was spreading all over the place. His fame was spreading because of the miracles and His teaching. But there was also infamy. His family from Nazareth thought He had gone insane and were seeking to take charge of Him. Out of jealousy and sheer wantoness, the Pharisees declared Jesus to be a master of demonic magic. Eventually, the Jewish leadership would reject Jesus and have Him put to death.

Today, it’s no different. Jesus remains a deep threat to all Marxists, all Islamic nations, all Secularists, He’s such a deep threat that the Hindu nationalists of India severely persecute Christians. The Bhuddist nationalists of Myanmar persecute the Christians in their country. Historical analysis is making it clear that Rabbinic Judaism owes its very existence to the threat of Jesus. Jesus has an ever expanding number of enemies. This is why I say He is more well known than ever.

On the other hand, something positive about Jesus seems to be brewing in California. There have been several reports of mass baptisms there — the most recent claiming 12,000 baptisms down at a beach. Maybe the Marxism in California has made life so miserable there that people are finally seeking something beyond this life. Hopefully, the same thing will happen here in Marxist New York. Since Jesus’ fame is in today’s Gospel lesson, let’s explore that topic.

Last week, we looked at recovering the sacred in the modern world. We saw that the sacred is what is dear to our Creator’s heart. We learned that some things are so dear to our Creator’s heart that the penalty for despising what is sacred is death. In particular, we learned that God’s commandments — His Law — expresses what is dear to His heart. We saw Jesus put the commandments in the positive sense in Matthew 22:37-40, “37. . . ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

This means that we are to love the Creator of the sacred and what He calls sacred with everything we have. Yet, in this past week, I know I have again ignored what is sacred to the heart of the Lord. That’s why I’m here for confession of sin and absolution from sin. To be absolved means to be freed from any question of guilt. I’m here to receive the promised forgiveness of sins in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in looking into the sacred, we have to focus in on a key problem that Jesus is most famous for solving. It’s best described for us in Romans 8:3-4, “3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (1984 NIV)

The Law is the source of the sacred. Yet, what is the Law powerless to do? It’s powerless to make us righteous before the living God who is the source of all righteousness. This is because of the sinful nature we have inherited through Adam’s Original Sin. This sinful nature is attached to our flesh like an unseen leech. We know it’s there because it makes itself known through its lusts and cravings — in particular the lust to be God. And this is how and why we violate the sacred.

Original Sin causes all of us to be born having to play God — having to define good and evil for ourselves and then acting on our definitions. Theologically, this called being born in the Likeness of God. And the Original Sin in us refuses to give up the right to play God. That’s why the sinful nature absolutely resists the Law of God. So, based on the beginning of Romans 8:3, if we were to ask the question, “Which is more powerful, the Law or the sinful nature?” we’d have to answer, “the sinful nature.” This is because no Law can stop us from indulging our lusts, cravings and secret thoughts.

Therefore, if we are not to be condemned to eternal damnation, something much stronger than the Law is needed to rescue is. In particular this something must be stronger than the sinful nature. So, in the second part of Romans 8:3 we hear that because the Law was not powerful enough to overcome the sinful nature, God sent not something, but someone, who could overcome it — His Son, Jesus.

For what purpose was Yahweh, the Son, sent? Romans 8:3-4 tells us He was sent to be a sin offering. But Jesus was more than just an offering. He was sent to to satisfy Yahweh’s outrage against us for rebelling against Him and disobeying His sacred conditions for life. Jesus did so by taking on all the condemnation and punishment that Yahweh’s justice requires.

Yahweh’s justice is real. It’s eternal. If not, then, Yahweh Himself is unjust and evil. Rebels against Yahweh’s righteous Law must pay.

But what if Yahweh Himself were to take on payment for evil and rebellion instead of the sinner? In order to do so, it would be necessary for Yahweh to come in the same mortal flesh we’re clothed in. And it would be necessary for Him to bear the punishment of death. The good news of the Gospel is that this is precisely what Yahweh did. Because the Son of God’s death on the cross paid the price that Yahweh’s justice demands, Jesus made real forgiveness of sins available to us. And where sin is forgiven, Christ’s righteousness remains on the forgiven person. 

But there’s more good news. Those who have had the righteous requirements of the Law satisfied through the forgiveness of sins have an additional benefit. They can live by the Spirit of God. This was also made possible by Jesus. Here’s how.

The Serpent of Genesis chapter 3 tempted Eve and used her to seduce Adam into sin. The temptation was to take on the Likeness of God by becoming their own gods. So, by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve abandoned the purity of the Image of God for rebellion in the Likeness of God. 

Yahweh has made it known that His plan is to restore humanity to the Image of God. For this to happen, someone had to undo what Adam had done. Some human with the same position as Adam would have to undergo the very same temptation without caving in to it.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us of at least five temptations the Son of God endured at the hands of Satan. Each temptation was designed to do one thing — to get Jesus to strike out on His own as Messiah. For, as the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, He had authority to be Messiah His own way.

The New Testament makes it clear that John the Baptist came proclaiming a baptism of repentance. When, Jesus, the sinless Son of Man, came to John for baptism, He needed no repentance. Yet, He underwent John’s baptism. Why? As far as I can see, Jesus did it to publicly proclaim that He was laying at the Father’s feet any and all right He had to be Messiah on His own terms.

For this reason, immediately after His baptism, Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where He underwent a forty day fast. At the end of the fast, Satan came to Jesus with three temptations. Two of the three began with this phrase: “If you are the Son of God.” In other words, “Why don’t you prove that you really are the Son of God” by doing something on your own authority? Turn this stone into a loaf of bread. Publicly jump off the high parapet of the temple and force the angels to catch you in public view. Neither Moses or the Prophets declared that Messiah would do any such things. Therefore, by refusing, Jesus gained victory over the temptation.

In one more attempt in the wilderness, Satan offered to make it easy for Jesus to win the nations of the world, as is prophesied of Messiah. Satan offered to give the nations of the world to Jesus if Jesus would just worship him. Worship is what Satan had lured the gentile nations of the world into doing through false gods. In other words, Satan wanted Jesus to lead the nations in their worship of Satan. Again, Jesus said no. He would gain the nations the hard way, the way laid out in Moses and the Prophets  — by being a sin offering.

Jesus was also tempted by His best friend Peter. Just after Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus began teaching His disciples what Moses and the Prophets teach about the ultimate task of Messiah. Messiah must be rejected and put to death for the sins of humanity. But this was too much for Peter. He cried out in Matthew 16:22, “. . . ‘This shall never happen to you!’” In other words, “Jesus. Don’t go through with this. Don’t leave us.” Through the emotional cry of Jesus’ best friend, Satan tempted Jesus to do something other than what is written of Him in Moses and the Prophets. Again, Jesus refused.

We know from Scripture that growing up in Nazareth, Jesus had brothers and sisters. We read in the 7th chapter of John that one year at the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus’ brothers dared Him to go up to Jerusalem and reveal Himself as the Messiah. It says in John that they did this because they did not believe in Him. Jesus refused. Instead, He revealed Himself as Messiah at the proper time — the Feast of Passover. We call the event Palm Sunday.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told both friends and enemies that He could have called down twelve legions of angels to save Him from His enemies. But, Jesus refused.

Finally, on the cross, Jesus was confronted  by leaders who used Satan’s line. They dared Him in Matthew 27:40, “. . . ‘Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’” Jesus refused.

What was the result of all these temptations? Paul mapped it out in Philippians 2:6-11, “6 [Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, the result was victory.

I know we’ve gone over this many times. But it’s worth doing so again and again because Jesus’ victory over Satan is the foundation of eternal righteous life for all who believe.

Therefore, Jesus’ refusal to be Messiah on His own terms won Him resurrection from the dead in an immortal human body. It also won Him the office in the created universe that Adam was meant to occupy — the Name above every name. In other words, we now have a real human being, in the Image of God, who is in charge of the creation. This is how things were meant to be in this realm of God’s creation as well as all the other realms. And this is how things will be in the resurrection of the dead for those in Jesus Christ.

No longer will the heirs of salvation be afflicted with Original Sin. No longer will we have to be our own gods. We will be in perfect unity with our Creator God — as He meant us to be. As a result, all the ills of this world will be no more for those in Messiah Jesus. On the other hand, all those who have rejected Yahweh and His Messiah, will receive what they want — Original Sin to the maximum for eternity, along with all of its ills.

Now, for believers, there is not only a blessed future eternity, there is also a taste of that eternity even now. This is what Romans 8:4 calls “living in the Spirit” — meaning Lord Holy Spirit. For, even now, by the Spirit’s power we can begin to live in the sacred as we were meant to live.

The only problem is that as long as we’re alive in this flesh, the Sinful Nature remains attached to us. Therefore, believers remain in a constant state of war with evil. As it says in Romans 8:12-13, “13 Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 sinful nature, you will live.” (1984 NIV)

As you can imagine, your sinful nature has no desire to put your sinful nature to death. Only Lord Holy Spirit within you does. Thus, the conflict. It’s why even though I heard that message about the sacred last week, I still violated the sacred this week. It’s why I need my guilt absolved.

We have to understand something about the Law. Because of the Sinful Nature, Yahweh can never be proud of how we’re keeping His Law. More importantly, we can never be proud of how we’re keeping Yahweh’s Law. The Sinful Nature is more powerful than the Law.

However, Yahweh is very proud of how His Son, Jesus, kept all of Moses and the Prophets while He was alive in mortal flesh on earth. He is most proud of how His Son, Jesus, went to death in mortal flesh on this earth. He is most proud of the magnificent immortal flesh His Son, Jesus, presently lives in at His right hand. He is most proud that from the right hand, His Son, Jesus, will return to this earth to separate humanity and gather to Him those who will share righteous immortality with Him on a new earth under new heavens. Yahweh is most proud of the real human being, Jesus.

So, guess what? The only pride we can have as human beings is in Jesus. He’s the human being who has won the day. He is worthy of being our leader. And through the miracle of His two natures and the miracle of the Trinitarian God, He is worthy of our worship. He is worthy of glorification. In Him we will be fully restored to the Image of God. He is glorified whenever by His Spirit we are able to operate in the sacred. This is what Jesus is famous for.

Last week we discovered that the following parts of our existence are sacred to our Creator God. Authority is sacred. Life itself is sacred. Sexuality, marriage and the family are sacred. Property is sacred. A person’s word is sacred. Contentment is sacred. Without the sacred, life becomes very chaotic and full of despair.

Because of the sinful nature, we fail at holding Yahweh’s sacred things to our hearts. Nevertheless, Lord Holy Spirit is able to do what the Law cannot do because He is stronger than the sinful nature. The Spirit can write Yahweh’s sacred things on our hearts and join us to Yahweh’s righteousness. Thus, chaos and despair are forced to flee.

Again, reaching out to those who know that there’s something terribly wrong in the world, but don’t know what it is, we human beings are meant to live in and enjoy what is sacred to our Creator. More than that, we are meant to live with and enjoy our Creator forever. We were not created to be autonomous beings.

Jesus taught that there’s only one way to enter into life with Yahweh. He said we must undergo what amounts to a new birth through water and the Spirit of God. Through the forgiveness of sins, this new birth pulls us tight to Jesus Himself — who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Through this new birth our anger, hostility, fear, indifference and resentment toward the big cop in the sky is taken away. It is replaced with acceptance, contentment and security in just being one of Yahweh’s creatures. With Jesus, we can lay down the fight to be our own gods.

So, there is a way to live confidently embracing what is right and sacred. Jesus Himself is that way. This is because He gained victory over Original Sin, death and the devil by becoming obedient unto death on a cross. The best attested fact of ancient history declares His victory. Jesus of Nazareth was bodily resurrected from the dead. This is what Jesus is famous for. Let us glory in His fame, as we are meant to do. Amen.

All Bible quotes are from the 2011 NIV unless otherwise noted.

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