I think you could ask the same question about our country right now. Yes. President Obama is the president. He is the leader. But it almost seems that the real ruler of America is more ethereal. (And much more sinister).
Immorality rules – Do whatever you want; whenever you want; who cares who you are hurting!
Violence rules – Attacks in the news every night, Paris, but then Mali and China.
Death Rules – Each night WRAL and RNC report for the first 20 minutes about how it’s been claiming the lives of many more that day.
Fear rules – Should we let in Syrian refugees or not? They might kill us all!
How did this happen? How did we get like this?
Today we are continuing our series called SOLA. Our Latin phrase for today is Christ Alone. Our goal is threefold: (1) How did it get that these terrifying things came to rule our world; (2) How did/does Jesus defeat their rule; (3) What is it like living under the rule of Christ.
I. How Sin and Death Got into Control.
We’re heading into Romans 5 to learn more about how exactly these terrible things got into power. Specifically we’re starting at verse 12. “Sin entered the world through one man.” To understand what exactly this is talking about – we need to head back to the very first days of this planet’s existence.
God had created a perfect place – a world without suicide bombers, crooked cops, internet trolls, and racism. In fact, this world wasn’t even host to some ‘lesser evils’ like mean words, pencil stealing, and the occasional sneaking a two seconds longer than necessary look at someone you aren’t married to.
In this perfect world, God in his infinite wisdom thought it necessary to allow his people a way to show love to him. So he created one very special tree. He placed it in the middle of the garden. He told the man (named Adam – which roughly translated in Hebrew means: “The man”); he told the man to not eat of the tree out of love for him!
Simple enough right?
It isn’t long before Adam and his wife get to looking at the tree. They examine its fruit. They smell it’s smells. They wonder about it.
Then, the devil – in the form of a talking snake – says to them, “Go ahead. Eat it. It’ll be awesome. Don’t listen to the Almighty, all loving God who created you, gave you life, gave you this 70 degree, perfect climate with all the tangerines and cucumbers you want to eat – ready to go at a moment’s notice. Don’t listen to him. Listen to me – a talking snake.”
And they did. They ate.
When they did. Look at what happened. Sin entered the world through one man.
Think of Adam like a door. Beforehand, sin wasn’t there. God didn’t create sin and add it to this world. But when Adam disobeyed God, he opened up that door and he let them right in. Suddenly, sin was all over the place. Disobedience was Adam’s next door neighbor. Selfishness made up its residence down the block. Pride, anger, and rebellion got an apartment together. Lust bought a townhome. Murder got a permanent job.
Suddenly – sin ruled the world!
But sin didn’t come in alone. Look at what Scripture says next, “Sin entered the world through one man…and death through sin.”
It’s not like God didn’t warn Adam. He told him, “If you eat of it, you will die.” God knew what sin would bring with it. He knew that evil being a part of this world would force His Almighty Hand to destroy it. He knew that a good God cannot let evil slide. He must wipe it out. Even when it’s permanently linked itself to his beloved creation, God knew that he would have to act. So he warned Adam!
But Adam didn’t listen.
Picture sin coming through that door, but not alone. With its grisly, pale arms wrapped around sin’s neck, death comes in with him. It begins wreaking havoc immediately. Adam and Eve’s first son kills their second son over an offering to God!
Death is still ruling isn’t it? Cancer. AIDS. Drunk driving. Fires. School shootings. Racist shootings. Terrorism. War. Old Age.
Don’t you wish you could slap Adam sometimes? “Look at what you did! Was the fruit really worth it? Was the shot of Vitamin C really that incredible? You ruined it!” But Adam isn’t the only one to blame.
“Death came to all, because all sinned.”
Do you see it? Death isn’t just Adam’s fault.
This world is like this because of us! We are the ones who let sin and death have control.
We are the ones who say, “God I hear what you’re saying, but I’d prefer to do this.”
We are the ones who say, “God, leave me alone. Stop being so controlling. Can’t you see that my sin is what I want to live my life by?”
We are the ones who say, “God, get out of my life. I’m with my sin right now. Don’t bother coming back. I’ve given him control.”
Lord, forgive us. Death and sin are in control – and we let them!
II. How Death & Sin were Overthrown
What now? How do we defeat sin and death?
Shall we stage a revolution? #OverthrowSinAndDeath? Shall we start a social movement to vote them out of office? Are we hear to start a Mockingjay-esque revolution?
Nope. I don’t mean to be a downer, but it won’t work. How can enslaved, chained, and as good as dead people, fight back and win?
Look at who came to save us. The gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Did you catch it? “Grace came by Jesus Christ.” “The gift of God…brought justification.” “We will reign in life…though the one man Jesus, Christ.”
Somebody’s name got repeated there. Last I checked he doesn’t go to this congregation. It isn’t you. It isn’t me. It isn’t some other pastor at some other church.
The one who overthrew sin and death was SOLUS CHRISTUS. Christ alone!
Jesus did it by himself. He fought sin & death in a handicap match…and won!
And no, it wasn’t like a UFC fight. It wasn’t Rhonda Rousey and Holly Holm – (Although that would be quiet the billing: Jesus v. Death!) In actuality, it didn’t look like much of a fight at all.
Jesus was beaten. He was handcuffed. He was betrayed by his friends. He was led to a false trial. He was deceptively sentenced. He was spat upon, slapped, and scourged. He had a crown of thorns placed into his head and a rod repeatedly striking him in the face. He carried a heavy “T” of wood outside the city and there he was nailed with large spikes – hand and foot to the cross.
Honestly – it looked like he had lost. He died!
But – hidden behind the this grim death scene –invisible to the naked eye -- our Jesus had already won. He had taken our sins and choked the life out of them. He put the devil in a strangle hold and weakened him into a frail shadow of himself. He looked death square in the face and knocked the “death” out of him!
And soon…this was apparent. Because three days later, he walked the earth again. He was alive – death was dead. He was in the winners circle (shaking hands and giving hugs) – sin was nowhere to be found! He was victorious – the devil was defeated.
III. Under Jesus’ Reign
Brothers and sisters, it’s nice to be under Jesus’ reign.
Did you ever notice that it matters who is in charge? If you’ve ever had a change of boss at work, then you know that. You might be used to a boss that let’s you play on Facebook and take afternoons off. Then, that guy might get fired and be replaced by a tyrant who sends you home with work to do on your iPad at home – so you never get a break. Maybe your company struggled, but then you replaced the CEO and things began to take off.
What’s it like under Jesus’ reign? How do things change when you go from sin and death – to Jesus?
- Grace Overflows
But with Jesus as ruler, our lives are overflowing with grace. It’s like taking a bathtub of water and trying to fill up a little Dixie cup – with a picture of Dora the Explorer imprinted on the side. You have way more than you need.
Jesus has gifted us way more than we need!
- We need God to tolerate us – Jesus restores us to perfect peace with God.
- We would be happy if God didn’t hate us – Jesus made it so that we are his Treasured possession.
- We might be just happy to be alive – Jesus empowers us to live and to thrive in his incredible grace!
2. Jesus Calls us "Innocent"
Verse 16 says this, “The gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation" – Because that’s what sin deserves. Condemnation. But here’s where it gets interesting. “The gift followed many trespasses" – which we might expect to lead to “Many condemnations.” But that’s not what followed it. Scripture says, “the gift…brought justification.”
That’s literally the exact opposite of condemnation. Justification is a courtroom term that means “not guilty,” “innocent;” “free from punishment.” This phrase is proof that sin has been defeated for you. Because they no longer bring the condemnation that they hoped to bring! Because of Jesus, you are forgiven!
That’s who you are.
We don’t have to live each day like we got called into the principal’s office – who has a tendency to get so angry with our sins that he pounds the desk, shakes the earth, and fire comes out of his eyes!
No. instead. We – you – live each day “FORGIVEN.” Free from sin. God’s dear child. A powerless victim of sin – no longer!
3. We Reign in LIFE.
But sin isn’t all that was defeated. There’s still that death thing. Does it still have power over us?
Read verse 17 “By the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace (that’s the overflowing love that we talked about) and of the gift of righteousness (that’s the declaration of “not guilty” we just talked about – both of which you have received , so this is talking about you!) How much more… will you reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."
An ironic twist, Jesus turned death, who had turned Adam into a doorway for death, into a door itself. Jesus turned death into a doorway for life.
Not just any life either. Eternal life. Peaceful life. Perfect life in heaven with Jesus.
So don’t be scared. No matter what it looks like out there in the world – don’t be scared. No matter what your friends tell you and your Facebook feed suggests – don’t be scared.
Jesus reigns. Christ alone Rules. To Him be glory and honor and praise now and forever. Amen!