A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on July 31, 2011 by Mr. Ben Preibe The Christian Faith One Word at a Time - BattlingRomans 7:18-25Children, when there’s a bad storm at night with lots of loud thunder, do you ever get scared? When you get scared like that, what do you do? Maybe go by your mommy and daddy. Here’s a picture of the disciples when they got scared in a bad storm. Do you see Jesus in the picture? Jesus had been sleeping because He wasn’t scared. He knew His Heavenly Father was taking care of Him. Anyway the disciples woke him up and asked, “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Jesus got up and said to the wind and the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” and it became completely calm. And now here’s a picture for you adults. It’s a sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. What we all wouldn’t give for that kind of peace! As it is, when we leave this house of worship, many of us are still going to be dealing with some serious wind and waves. We may even ask God, “Don’t you care that we’re drowning? And, why aren’t you calming the storms in my life like you did for the disciples?” Well, God does care, and He will calm those storms. But first there are some things He wants to accomplish in us and through us, which is why we all have to battle before He can give us rest. This summer we are following a sermon series called, The Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is Battling. 1. Every day we have to battle our sinful nature. 2. Every day we have victory in Christ.What would you say needs to change so that your life could go from feeling like a storm on the Sea of Galilee to a sunrise on the Sea of Galilee? Some might say, “Washington getting their act together.” Or, someone finding a cure for whatever illness you or a loved one might have. Or, maybe just everyone learning to get along with each other. These are all good things to strive for, but none of them get to the heart of our problems. Paul, the apostle, writes: For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18-19) This passage could be a little confusing unless we follow the principle of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. When Paul said good was not in him, he wasn’t saying he didn’t have the Holy Spirit. He did! And by the Holy Spirit he had faith in all that Jesus had done for him. And so, through faith Paul was a new creation. In his inner being, he desired to always do what is right and never wanted to do what’s wrong. Unfortunately Paul’s heart was more like a Galilean storm than a Galilean sunrise, because he kept messing up. And the reason he kept messing up is there was nothing good about his sinful nature. And now let me say a little about OUR sinful nature. God created us in His image – pure and holy. However, because of our first parents, sin was injected into us the moment we were conceived. This sin makes us unholy and guilty before God. That’s not to say we can’t work on noble causes such as protecting and preserving freedom, and finding cures for diseases, and helping those who are truly in need. However, even if we are successful in all these things, un-holiness would still permeate our nature. Paul proves that in verses before our text: I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. (Romans 8:7-8) They recently did a study on those who are addicted to smoking. Here’s what they found actually increases a smoker’s desire to smoke – NO SMOKING signs. Telling a smoker he can’t smoke makes him want to all the more. Now, I’m not saying that smoking is necessarily wrong. But the principle I’m pointing out is that telling people not to do something can drive them to do that thing even more. And now if that thing is against one of the Commandments, the sinful nature might be sleeping, but when it hears God’s “Thou shall not”, the sinful nature gets woken up and won’t leave that person alone until he gives in. This being the case, how do we battle our sinful nature? How do we keep from giving in so that we don’t walk into sin’s quicksand and really mess up our life? Some have taken the approach of telling themselves that a little sin is a good thing. You see, if it’s just a little sin, they don’t have to feel guilty about it. And if they don’t feel guilty about it, that sin won’t be as tempting and so they’ll be able to keep it under control. Does this approach work? It is a lie of Satan! Jesus redeemed us that we might escape the corruption of this world. Indulging in a “little” sin is not escaping. Rather it’s steps toward being conquered by sin and turning into someone we never wanted to be. Another approach some have taken in their battle against their sinful nature is they binge sin. The thought is by binging on a sin, after awhile they will become so sick of it that they finally won’t want that sin anymore. Even if it kind of works that way and a person does quit a particular sin, another sin to binge on will come along; and changing the sin doesn’t change the sinful nature. Changing the sin just brings on a whole new set of problems. Fighting our sinful nature sounds kind of hopeless, doesn’t it. Just saying “no” stirs up our sinful nature. Giving into sin a little feeds it. And binging on sin is always a disaster. So how can we truly battle our sinful nature so that we can be from the inside out the kind of person we want to be as a Christian? Paul answers that for himself and for us: So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 8:21-25) There is one good thing that can come out of our daily battle with our sinful nature. We start to really get it what we confess in our liturgy each week – that we are by nature sinful and that we have disobeyed God in our thoughts, words, and actions. We have done what is evil and failed to do what is good. For this we deserve God’s punishment both now and in eternity. Once the Holy Spirit convicts us of these things, having a better life here will no longer be our chief concern. Our chief concern will be making it to heaven, because life with God is a whole lot better than anything here, and it’s forever. However, the best part of all this is it’s ours! It’s ours because God the Son won the victory over our daily sins for us! He did this by taking on a human nature though without any sin, and He lived in this sinful world with those who hated Him for being without sin. And then they crucified Him. But by dying, He paid for all sin, so that all who rest in Him are now holy before God and will live with Him forever. As a result, this Galilean storm could be a picture of our conscience after we gave into some sin AGAIN. But this Galilean sunrise can be a picture of our conscience after we’ve been reminded again through Word and Sacrament that every day we have Jesus’ forgiveness. Now, when the Holy Spirit leads us to want to thank Jesus for this rest (and do keep praying for that), how shall we show our thanks? One way would be to follow the example Paul set. He wrote to young Timothy: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (II Timothy 3:10-11) Isn’t the calm trust Paul had amazing? We can have that kind of trust too; but again, let’s follow Paul’s example. From this passage you can see that he had many victories. Yet Paul never dwelt on his victories to feel good about himself. Rather in each victory Paul continued to keep his focus on all that Jesus had done for him. In Philippians he wrote: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12, 14) What was Paul’s goal in life? It was simply to be like Jesus. Make that your goal also! So, then, does all the immorality in our country change our goal of being like Jesus? Not a bit, in fact the immorality makes our being like Jesus stand out all the more brightly. Or, does battling all kinds of diseases change our goal of being like Jesus? No, those illnesses can become our stage in being like Jesus. Or one more example – does the lovelessness of those around change our goal of being like Jesus? No actually our struggles against our own sinful nature remind us of how unconditionally Jesus loved us in paying for our sins, and so also let us love one another. However, let’s do this not with just “Have a nice day”, but with the truth spoken in love after much prayer. Sometimes our lives may look like this storm. Sometimes our consciences can feel like this storm because our own sins have caused some of storms, plus maybe we haven’t done so well in being like Jesus and in battling our sinful nature. Well, here’s the good news. Having a stormy life, having a stormy conscience is normal for a Christian. Are you normal Christians? But here’s the even better news. Jesus gives us the victory. Every day He forgives our sins, because He already paid for them. Every day He gives us new strength through His Word and Sacrament to be like Him. And some day our battles will be over. He will give us complete and eternal victory in His heavenly Kingdom. Until then, keep battling a day at a time and winning the victory! Amen.

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