Read text. I found this text to be very challenging and relevant for our congregation so I am going to spend 3 weeks on this passage. The key idea I want to focus on over the 3 weeks is found in the latter half of v13. The Lord for the Body – in a nutshell, this means that the Lord is pro body. This idea might be new to you. What does it mean that the Lord is for the body? Does it mean that we should exercise more and eat better? Pay more attention to our appearance? Well, no, this is not a free license to obsess with our looks like many in the world do. You might think, the Lord being pro body sounds wrong. I thought God cares about our hearts. What about the body is the Lord in favor of?
Today is part 1 about saying no to our bodily cravings and why it’s important that we not be enslaved by anything. Then, due to Christmas and New Year’s, we will take a break and then in Jan, I’ll resume with Part 2 and how Jesus bought us at a price, and in light of that gospel reality, we are commanded to glorify God with our bodies. And in Part 3, we are going to talk about human sexuality, which is uncomfortable to speak about, but it is important and I am sure it’s a topic of interest. We are going to be covering quite a number of verses this morning so you might want to write down the references and read them later in your own time.
The body and the role of the body is such a significant part of life and certainly of the Christian life so I think it deserves some special attention. We covered it a bit at a high level when we studied the book of Romans last year.
Rom 1:24-25 – 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
This is what happens when we are in sin. These verses describe the grace of God as God contending with man, and like a dam, He’s holding back the flood waters of sin. Holding sin at bay, not allowing the full consequences of sin to overwhelm us. But the grace of God has a limit and there is a line drawn in the sand and mankind stepped over that line. And rather than contend with rebellious man, God gives in, He gives sinful man over to the sinful desires of their hearts, to idolatry. And it’s interesting that the first visible consequence of that fall is a corruption of the BODY. Sexual impurity for the DEGRADING of their BODIES with one another.
Then, in Romans 7, Paul shares his testimony before he was saved. He was a religious man, a Pharisee of Pharisees, he knew the law backward and forward and he tried his best to obey the law. And here is what he shares, starting in v18 —
Rom 7 – 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
And by the grace of God, Paul experiences salvation and the chapter ends with thanksgiving — 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 8 is the transition chapter and from that point on, Paul begins to describe a life of someone who is Spirit-filled, saved, born again.
Romans 8 – 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
This is the gospel. We were objects of wrath. We were enslaved to sin. Not only our minds and hearts, but our bodies became corrupt. We fell into sexual sin almost immediately and displayed a lack of restraint and a lack of boundaries in terms of sexuality. Even though we may have wanted to be a good, moral person, we were utterly incapable of following through. Because we were prisoners of sin. We were in chains, bound up.
But thanks be to God for sending Jesus. He came to save us from sin. He paid the penalty of sin by dying on a cross and satisfying the just requirements of the law that required death to anyone who broke the law. And not only were we freed from slavery to sin, but we were given the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to lead victorious lives.
As a result, we come to Rom 12:1-2.
Rom 12 – 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Rom 1, we were objects of wrath, prisoners of sin and our bodies became corrupt and we degraded one another with our bodies. Then, after we are saved, Rom 12, the same bodies which were instruments of sin and wickedness, God reclaims our bodies, he renews our bodies and invites us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.
The body is very important in Christian life. To illustrates this further, I want to give a parable of modern day American life. It’s a scene that I am sure you have encountered in your life. A middle-aged man in a three-piece green suit was walking down the street. In his right hand, he was holding onto an empty potato chip bag. As he walked along, he looked to his left across the street. Then he turned and looked behind him. And then seeing that nobody was around, he tossed the potato chip bag over the fence by the freeway.
In that little episode there are at least two marks of secular American life. One is practical atheism. And the other is physical hedonism.
Practical atheism. The freeway fence was on his right concealing him with bushes. He could see to the front as he walked. The ground was underneath. And he covered himself to the left and behind with a glance. Why didn’t he look up? Because at that moment he was a practical atheist. There might have been someone to the left that mattered like a policeman who could write him up for littering. There might have been someone behind him that mattered. But there was no one in heaven that mattered. American life is by and large atheistic when it comes to empty potato chip bags and banana peels. We think belief in God is sufficient. As long as you agree mentally with certain principles and read your Bible and change your outlook in life, you’re fine. But who you are when you are alone, that determines whether or not you are a practical atheist. When you are alone, do you look up, do you acknowledge His constant gaze upon your life? Practical atheism.
The second mark of modern American life displayed in this parable is physical hedonism. Why did this fellow want to throw the empty potato chip bag instead of carrying it to a trash can? Because it was inconvenient to carry it. It was annoying, unpleasant. He wanted his hand freed up so that it could sway back and forth as he walked down the street.
But why did he look over his shoulder before he tossed it? Because his conscience told him it was an action that is not good and that people would disapprove. So a minor skirmish went on in his soul. It probably lasted about five seconds. “Shall I opt for the pleasure of not carrying this thing? Or shall I opt for the pleasure of a clear conscience?” It clearly was not much of a battle. The physical pleasure won out. And that is another mark of our culture. Physical hedonism. If it feels good to your body, why deny yourself? The curse of our culture is that physical pleasures are desired more strongly than having a clear conscience before a Holy God.
And of course these two things go together: practical atheism and physical hedonism. Once God is out of the picture, then my conscience has no ultimate significance as a part of God’s image, and so, let us eat, drink, and litter the freeway, for tomorrow we die—and that’s it. If you can just keep God out of the potato chip bags and banana peels of your life, then you can proceed with your indulgences.
The point of the story is simply to help you remember what I am about to unpack from this text. For believers, we are not atheists. Therefore, we are not slaves of physical pleasure. We are slaves of God. We are all slaves to something. We were created in the image of God. That means, in our very DNA, we were created for worship. We are worshipping beings. Either you are going to worship God, or you are going to worship something else. And if you worship something other than God–your career, your family, your finances, yourself–you will be enslaved by the object of your worship.
So for the Christian, when the battle begins in our own soul, instead of looking side to side, front and back, we must look up, and by the power of the Spirit of God, we want to be freed from the desires of the body. The goal of this message is the fulfillment of 1 Cor 6:20 in your lives and mine.
20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor (or glorify) God with your body.
There’s a similar verse in 1 Cor 10:31, which says —
1 Cor 10 – 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
When you and I sit down to the table before our food and drink, do we do what this verse says? Do we eat to the glory of God? Do we drink to the glory of God? Life is not about our personal happiness or fulfillment, but because we were bought at a price, our lives, even our bodies are vehicles to bring glory to God.