All of us who live in Minnesota get an unusual opportunity that much of the world does not experience in the same manner. We in Minnesota get to experience all four seasons with their varying temperatures, precipitation, and of course, the transformation of the canvas of the landscape around us. This time of the year is often not only mild in the afternoon, but also very colorful as the leaves begin to change to gold, brown, orange, and other various tones presenting an orchestrated beauty from the hand of our Creator. In contrast to the late spring bloom of green horizons, the sounds of birds, and the grace of a butterfly moving through our garden, we see the signs of the dormancy of winter drawing near.
God has designed the cycles of the annual seasons to remind us of His way of transforming us as His people. Though we were created for the paradise of summer, the tragic result of the fall is that,
“…sin came into the world through one man, and death spread to all men because all sinned.” – Romans 5:12
The cycle of the seasons reminds us of this tragedy in symbolism, yet they also remind us of the hope of new life to come, in that spring returns each year. Scripture consistently speaks to the depravity of our humanity, declaring that,
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
We are not living fully in the way that God designed us to live. The hope that we have been given in the message of the Gospel is that through the death of Jesus on the cross, we not only receive the forgiveness of our sins, but we also receive freedom from the slavery to sin and serve a new Master. This new Master died the death of winter on our behalf, paying the penalty to free us from sins penalty, and pursue Him wholeheartedly.
“…having been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness.” – Romans 6:18
This is the greatest news ever given in history! We can live in the freedom that Christ has given us! The question remains, what does it look like to walk in freedom from sin and the same freedom to obey God from the heart, even while realizing there is so much change that I still need to undergo? Let me bring us back to the fall colors and what they represent. The death of the leaves and their twirling fall to the ground remind us that winter is coming, yet again. The change in the seasons are a parallel to our transformation as children of God through the cross having its way in us. As Romans continues, we see that there is a war in our soul that divides our affections between satisfying our sinful desires and walking in the joy and pleasure of knowing and obeying Jesus commands. Paul states that we have died to sin and the judgment we deserve for breaking the law of God, and that we are now joined to Jesus, so that
“…we belong to another, to Him who was raise from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.” – Romans 7:4
Paul describes that as we walk out the journey of abiding in Jesus and the fruit that results, that amid the process we continually face opportunities to walk in freedom or “do what we don’t want to do.” This very crisis that we face is the opportunity to cry out to God as we are being tempted, for deliverance! Paul declared that he was a wretched or more literally, a miserable man in Romans 7:24. He asks the question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The apostle goes on to answer his own question with the answer that every kid in Sunday school would say, JESUS!! This is the context for one of the most popular verses in the entire Bible and rightly so,
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2
The path to freedom is forged for us by Jesus, yet we all know that the battle continues to rage, and we don’t always walk in this freedom.
This is where we circle back again to the parallel of the four seasons. Just as the fall reminds us of the soon to come death of winter, so the spring reminds us that summer is near. As Paul continues in Romans 8, he sets realistic expectations for this life in contrast with the life to come on the path toward transformation. He reminds us to consider that,
“…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.“ – Romans 8:18
He also reminds us that our ultimate freedom still awaits the return Jesus in glory. He describes the groaning of creation itself, as it waits with eager expectation to be set free from corruption along with what he describes with the phrase, “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” One day soon the paradise of summers beauty and refreshing air will dawn! We will be changed in the twinkling of the eye into bodies of glory, to battle sin no more! Until that day, God has provided seasons of change to remind us of the change, we signed up for in surrendering to Him. Whatever challenging elements that each season may bring, may we entrust ourselves to Him who has made us more than conquerors through Him who loved us and washed us in His blood! So, as you see the beauty in the colorful leaves this month, remember that God is working in you and the new life of spring will return!