What’s left to give?

Romans 8:31-32

“I’m innocent. I didn’t do it.” Javon Davis was convicted of murder and attempted murder in 2015, only to be exonerated after more than 5 years in prison. This year he can celebrate Christmas with his family and not behind bars. In 2014, there was a gang shooting at 3 am outside of Target Field, the homefield of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Javon was convicted of the crime, but The Innocent Project took up his case and got him out. He noted in an interview how relieved he was to be out of jail for a crime he didn’t commit. The problem was, he wasn’t innocent. Perhaps he didn’t pull the trigger that night because he was a few miles away at a night club on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the murder. But prior to 2015, he was convicted several times for crimes like drug possession, giving a false name to police, and theft. He was known to be a close friend of a gang leader who was murdered. The court only looks at one crime at a time unless multiple crimes are related. There is an entire life of behavior that can be exposed. Innocent? Can you claim innocence? The book of Romans is a one of the best books to read over the days between Christmas and New Year’s. Paul concludes that universally, every single person, is guilty of crimes against God. Condemnation in hell for eternity is the rightful punishment for these crimes. But God universally put all crimes on his Son, Jesus Christ. The greatest gift from God is Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus as their Savior gain access to that forgiveness. Paul then asks a question (6:1ff), “So, you have been exonerated, now what? What can we say? Shall we go on sinning? No way!” We are baptized children of God and so we have the Spirit. Even as you battle with temptation, you have Jesus’ forgiveness. The greatest gift from God is Jesus. Since God has given that gift, all things work out for the good of those who love him. God works out your life just to solidify you in his grace. Paul’s climax of the whole book of Romans begins with these two verses. The second “What shall we say?” question of the book is here. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? What can be said in response to the greatest gift? What is the takeaway? What do you want to take home from church this Christmas morning? We have the greatest gift of Jesus. Since we have been given this gift, what shall we say? Paul follows that question with a question. If God is for us, who can be against us? Good question. Who can be against us? In a couple of verses later, Paul lists a few things: life, death, angels, demons, heights, depths, all creation. Then there is Satan’s accusing finger. Satan is a mighty foe and that finger he points can be paralyzing. Why? Because some of his accusations are true. When he hangs out the dirty laundry before you, he uses sins that you and I have committed to shame us. But here is his lie: he twists our thinking so that we are tempted to believe God is against us. Satan is a liar. If God is for us, who can be against us? Paul asks the question but really, he is intending it to answer itself. Since God is for us, no one can be against us. Should enemies starve us, we still have the bread of life. Should they rob us of our church (building), we are the church (people). Should they take our life, we have the resurrection and the life. No nothing is against us when God is for us. Should the accuser take our innocence away from us and heap shame on us, we have the sacrifice and sanctifier. There is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. (8:1). You are exonerated. How do you know? God’s greatest Christmas gift is proof. 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. Here God connects Christmas to Lent. That child born in the manger was born to be given over as a sacrifice. God spared no expense in your Christmas gift. God didn’t search for the cheapest deal. He didn’t wait for the black Friday sale. He paid in full the price of your sin and gave Jesus up as the payment. Paul love’s questions, here’s the final one. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Jesus gave up heaven for you. Do you think he is holding out on you? Jesus poured out his blood for you. Do you think he will leave you parched? Jesus gave up his life for you, do you think he will let the things in your life rob you of Christmas joy? God slayed his Son, his one and only Son, the one whom he loves, for you. Do you really think he will withhold from you anything you need to make it to heaven? He had nothing dearer, or more precious, or more excellent than his Son, he will neglect nothing of what he foresees will be profitable to us. Innocent? They actually didn’t find Javon innocent. The trick that got him out was that a new set of lawyers argued he wasn’t properly represented in the first case. Javon’s first lawyer didn’t do the best, even when the judge was trying to help him out. Walker, a survivor of the shooting and the witness that confessed in interrogation withdrew his confession in the 2015 trial. His confession was coerced by the interrogators. Walker said he didn’t want to send an innocent man to jail. He was later shot dead from another incident of gang violence in 2019. Was Javon really innocent? Probably of that murder. But what about all the other crimes? Now that he is out, what is he going to do with his life? He has been given a chance of chances. How is he spending Christmas? But a better question is, what do you want to do with Christmas today knowing that you are free? There is only one who is truly innocent. The child who was born for us in the manger. He was the only one who is innocent. God gave you that innocence. Satan can no longer accuse you. God gave you the Son. Along with him, he gives you all good things. What’s left to give? Amen

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