Sermon for January 15, 2012

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (2nd Sunday after the Epiphany—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

January 15, 2012

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text this morning is from the Epistle lesson recorded in 1 Corinthians 6:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Identity is of great importance.  People spend hundreds of dollars a year on identity theft protection.  People do everything that they can to protect their name, the social security number, birth date, credit card information, and so on.  We have to be smart and safe in this world where wicked people will try to take anything and everything away from you, including your identity.  But are we just as smart and safe with our Christian identity?

We first of all have to realize that we do have a Christian identity.  We say, “I am a Christian.”  But what does that mean?  What does confessing, “I am a Christian” say about your identity, about who you are?

First and foremost it says that “You are Christ’s.”  After all, doesn’t the word Christian mean “one who belongs to Christ”?  In Romans 1 St. Paul says that we “are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:6)  But how careful are we with that identity?  Galatians 5:24 tells us, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Can someone easily identify you as belonging to Christ or is it easier to identify you as belonging to the sinful flesh with its lusts and wants?  It makes a difference because it is a matter of your Christian identity and we want to keep that identity safe.

We can go back to the city of Corinth to find an example of losing, or at the very least, covering up, Christian identity.  The Corinthians used as a slogan, “All things are lawful for me.”  Perhaps they appealed to their newly found freedom and spiritual power in Christ.  As Christians, each of them was “a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.”  But they didn’t understand that Christian freedom from sin and the Law’s condemnation is not freedom to sin.  Rather, it is freedom to live by the power of the Holy Spirit according to God’s Law.  We have to not only remember that a Christian is a “perfectly free lord of all, subject to none,” but also “a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”  So while all things might be lawful for us, not all things are helpful or beneficial for us.  The Corinthians were thinking only of themselves, rejoicing in their spiritual privileges, without giving real thought to what benefits the whole body of Christ, to whom they belong.

So Paul asked them, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?  Never!”  Whether it is sexual sin, greed, hatred, inappropriate language, or stealing, sin is a tyrant that tries to overpower us and keep us subject to it.  Sin wants us to believe that we still have to serve it as our master.  But we who call Christ our Lord are to serve Him and not our sinful passions.

As we take a look at our lives and our identity as Christians, who do we find ourselves serving more often—sin or Christ?  I guess there are “days” and then there are “DAYS.”  Sin wants nothing more than to rob from us our identity as belonging to Christ.  Sin wants nothing more than to lead us down the road of temptation so that we fall back into the slavery of sin, death, and condemnation.  Sin wants our devotion and adherence.  It wants to rule every aspect of our lives, physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Each of us knows our own struggles against sin.  Daily we fight against the temptations of the flesh.  Every day we have to do battle against sinful wants and desires as we struggle to maintain our identity as Christians.  And sometimes we lose the fight.  Sometimes we are overcome and fall back under sin’s control and power.  We get duped into thinking we are living for ourselves, that we are free and in control, only to find out that we aren’t.  We realize that sin has gotten the upper hand again and worked to take away our identity as one who belongs to Christ.

But we cannot let this discourage us.  We cannot let sin tell us that the battles we lose against temptation mean that we have also lost the entire war.  We cannot and must not fall into despair and disbelief because sin wins here and there.  That’s what sin wants you to do.  That’s what sin wants you to believe.  Sin wants to claim you as its own.  Sin wants to be your master and you its slave.  But that simply is not and cannot be true.  “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”  Sin doesn’t own you anymore.  Neither have you been set free to do whatever you please.  No, you were bought for a price and have come under the divine, merciful, and loving ownership of Jesus Christ.  And it is Jesus who gives you your identity and your purpose.

“You were bought with a price.”  God’s grace did not come cheaply!  It was a costly ransom from slavery, from captivity to the power of sin.  God’s once-for-all action on Calvary paid the price for our sin, “not with silver or gold but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”  Our redemption in Jesus is like a transaction.  The curse, the punishment, we deserved for having sinned against God in thought, desire, word, and action was transferred to Jesus.  Christ took our place under the curse and punishment of God in our place.  He made the payment for us by shedding His holy blood on the cross.  We read in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Jesus came to purchase us by paying just the right price.  The Son of God is born under the Law that we are unable to keep because of our sins.  He keeps the Law of God perfectly for us and exchanges our failures and sins for His perfection and holiness.  Then Jesus suffers and dies on the cross, shedding His blood so that we now have forgiveness and life everlasting as children of God.  Our Lord exchanged places with us.  He became a curse so that we might be blessed.  He was born under the Law so we might have the full rights of children.  He became a slave so we might become free.  He purchased our freedom from sin, and He, the slave, became our Master.  What a beautiful message, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”

Then Paul continues, “So glorify God in your body.”  We who are Christians are not absolutely free to do anything we want.  We can’t handle absolute freedom.  What Jesus did in buying us back from sin was to get us out of the hands of our previous evil owner so that we might be owned again by our proper Master, God Himself.  As a result, as a response, we glorify God with our bodies.  In other words, we rejoice in the perfect freedom Jesus won for us because it frees us to serve God in righteousness and holiness as God originally intended.

So we might do just this, God has made up temples of the Holy Spirit.  God the Holy Spirit Himself dwells in us.  The Holy Spirit took up residence in our bodies through Baptism, which we spoke about last Sunday.  Our Christian identity is one of being bought at the price of Jesus’ blood in order to be a temple of the Holy Spirit.  This indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us gives a dignity to the whole of life.  He makes us who we are—redeemed and forgiven children of God who love and serve the Lord with all that we are.

As temples of the Holy Spirit, as people belonging to Christ, our whole life is given to glorifying Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We are empowered by God’s grace to “present our bodies as a sacrifice that is living, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1)  We are empowered to overcome temptations to sin, to resist sin, and to live the life of a child of God by avoiding sin.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us as He continually shapes our Christian identity through Word and Sacrament.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit because Christ purchased us for God through His blood.  Jesus paid the price for our sins and won our forgiveness so that He might give us His Spirit to make us holy in thought, word, desire, and action.  The Holy Spirit empowers us by the Gospel of Christ to give God glory as we live for Christ and with Christ, saying no to sin, and overcoming temptation by the power of that same Spirit who dwells in us. You are Christ’s and the Holy Spirit keeps your identity as Christians safe and secure in the blood of Jesus.  This is the best identity protection you can have.  Amen.

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