What's your problem?
Have you ever tried to figure that out?
If you do, and you take some time to really think about it, and you're honest about it, I can tell you what conclusion you'll come to: You are the root of the problem, you and your selfishness.
That might sound harsh, but it's true. Any problem you experience can be boiled down to selfishness.
That's part of who we are as humans. I want my way. We don't want to back down. We don't want to submit and give someone else the upper hand.
Every problem boils down to selfishness, which makes sense. When Jesus summed up all of God's law, he said it boiled down to putting God first, in other words, not being selfish.
Love God more than anything else. You do that and you've solved every other problem.
But the problem is, you don't do that. I don't do that. So selfishness is not solved and we have problems even more serious than the ones we see in front of us right now.
So what can we do about that?
But in our text from Romans 8, God's word makes clear that Christ conquers our selfishness. He conquers that selfishness by first suffering its consequences, and then sending his Spirit of selflessness.
Verse 3 says, "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."
Think about that. The Law was powerless. God's perfect, holy, immutable law was powerless to do what it was meant to do. God said that if we keep his law, we get to be with him in perfection. But the law is powerless because we didn't keep it. Our selfishness robbed us of the gift of God's law and made it a curse instead, a condemnation that declared us outcast, hell bound.
Christ conquered that.
What the law couldn't accomplish, God did. Our selfishness was unsolvable until God sent his Son, looking just like us sinners, but he wasn't. He didn't
sin. And he conquered our selfishness.
Romans 8:3 says he condemned "sin." He destroyed it. Why? "In order that the righteous requirements (really the result of righteousness that a perfect keeping of the law brings) of the law might be fully met in us."
Jesus conquered the law, lived it perfectly so that it could be on our record. And at the same time he paid the price to take our failure off our record.
Think about what that took. You've felt the pain that comes to you when you realize what your selfishness has done to someone. You've felt the shame and guilt and repercussion when you look back and realize that you are the problem. Pile all of that up and that's the pain Jesus went through, being punished for all of our selfishness, because he was selfless, because he gave himself to conquer our selfishness, he took the price.
And now look at how God sees us. Romans 8:1 says that there is now no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus, because we have Jesus' victory. We are set free from the condemnation of the law.
He has conquered the effects of our selfishness, and he even goes one more, he conquers the control of our selfishness by sending us the Spirit of selflessness.
As much as we still have that selfish sinful nature in us, which we do as long as we are alive, as long as it is in us, there will be a battle, but Jesus sends us strength for that battle, he sends us the firepower of the Holy Spirit.
What does that Spirit in us do? He changes our mindset. Verse 5 says when we're thinking about the things the spirit puts in our minds, we do them. And the Spirit in us is the Spirit of Christ. He directs our minds to see Christ - to see the one who conquered our sin and selfishness by giving us that perfect demonstration of selflessness. This is the one who told his disciples that he wanted to go up to Jerusalem to be betrayed and condemned and mocked and flogged and crucified," because we were more important to him than his life was.
And the more we think about that - the more we're able to imitate that selflessness. And the more we do, the smaller our problems become.
Christ has conquered your selfishness. May God bless your living in His selflessness.
In Christ, Amen.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.