Prison Gates based on Romans 8:12-17
Pentecost 4 /Proper 10 – July 10, 2011
Pastor Richard Mau
Immanuel Lutheran: Des Plaines, IL
Psalm 65 Isaiah 55:10-13 Romans 8:12-17 Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Prison gates are quite a symbol. When they are closed behind you, you are held against what you would much rather be doing. You are captive because of what you have done and there is no escape. When those gates are opened, your penalty has been paid and you are free to go out again. When freedom is realized one does not want to be held captive ever again. One wants the stigma and record to be completely removed. One wants to return to living life as it is intended to be.
As we follow Paul’s letter to the Romans this summer he spells out the contrast between being held captive in sins to being released from the sentence of sin, that sentence of being bound to sin and the wages of sin, death. The release, the freedom, is only in Christ Jesus who lived and died for each one, paying the price for all sins as the bondsman who releases one from those prison gates. Each believer is given a new life, a new identity before God for eternity and also in day-to-day lives while yet in this world.
Paul begins this section with the words, “So then…” All of this is the result of the Holy Spirit through the works and word of Jesus Christ. “Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, 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 Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you,” [8:9b-11]. Jesus has said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” [John 8:36].
In our earthly and sinful flesh, we cannot of our own put away the sins of thoughts, words and deeds. They are always with us both in action and in memory. But by faith in Jesus that is given by the Holy Spirit, the sinful deeds have been put to death. You are no longer sons of Satan. You are no longer children of this world. God has adopted you in the waters of your baptism as a dear and precious child of his. He wants you to have the life he made you to have in his glory, eternal life again. He wants you and has made you to be in his image, one free from all evil, knowing only the light of his goodness forever.
A teen-aged boy had grown up in a neglecting home. He ran the streets of Aurora, Illinois with his gang buddies. His future looked like a one-way street going the wrong way. As a minor, he was placed in foster care. Bob took him into his home and later adopted him as his own son. The boy lived now as one of Bob’s family in all ways including associations with other teenagers, doing well in school, and in his senior year was elected president of the student council and earned a football scholarship to a major university.
In the parable of the sower, the man did not choose which soil the seed was sown. He cast the seed everywhere. It is God who makes the soil rich and the seed to grow. He does it by his word and the Holy Spirit. The young man I just spoke of certainly did not look like fertile soil to sow the seed. He did not come to faith on his own. The foster placement and adoption were not of his original plan, but he responded in the same love that was first given to him. When the seed of the Gospel is sown freely, it is the Holy Spirit who works in the heart and soul, making fertile soil and the seed of faith to grow. As the young man responded to the love and example shown him, Christians respond to God, our adoptive father in the same way, striving to live as he has called each one to.
That is how it is as a child of God. Your heavenly Father has adopted you as his dear child, a brother or sister in Christ Jesus. God has restored Jesus to his heavenly throne for all eternity. Here Paul reminds you that as children of God you are “…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him,” [v. 17].
Jesus suffered your sins for you. He left his glorious throne in heaven to take on human flesh in this sinful world. He repented your sins for you receiving the baptism of repentance from John the Baptist. He was condemned by the temple leaders for claiming to be God. That is yours and my sin each and every time as sin is pretending to be God on our terms and not his. In our walks in life in this sinful world it is not easy to leave the old Adam, the sinful self behind in view of the temptations and the ways of the world around us. God does not give you his Spirit to fall back into the fears in this sinful world. He gives you his Spirit that through his word, you remain in faith in him and walk in this life as his dear child.
In the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus on the cross, the prison gates of sin and death and hell have been burst open. You have heard the joyous words at the beginning of the service that having repented of your sins and your trust in the merits of Christ, your sins are forgiven. As we proclaim the Triune God each one remembers the gifts in baptism, washing away all sins, being adopted as God’s dear child and the gift of the Holy Spirit who keeps you in that one true faith. In a few moments you will be nourished again with nothing other than the precious body and blood that paid the price for you and has freed you to life everlasting.
Yes, you are adopted as a child of God and a fellow heir with Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.