Sermon preached by Pastor Jeff Owen at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 25, 2018
Today we come to what many call the greatest chapter in the bible. I can’t disagree. I will be honest, as a new Pastor, I was a little uneasy when I realized I would be preaching on Romans 8. I thought a,m I prepared for this? Am I equipped for this? I even thought, maybe I should just let pastor Phil take this one or at least start chapter 8. Then as these thoughts crossed my mind I saw the news that Billy Graham passed away.
I actually paused for a while and reflected on his life as I prepared my sermon. I think I listened to a few tributes and parts of some of his sermons. It occurred to me that while Billy Graham certainly had a presence at the pulpit, a way with words and a voice that could carry throughout a stadium. It wasn’t those things that drew people to him though. Those things didn’t hurt, God had gifted him with those skills. But more than anything it was the authority with which he spoke. Not his own authority, but on the authority of God – the rock of his word and truth.
I am not Billy Graham, but I can stand on the same authority of God’s word and proclaim to you the truth in Romans chapter 8.
It is full of so many great realities for a Christian. One can’t miss the work of the Holy Spirit, which we will begin to see today in our text. The Holy Spirit will be central to Romans 8 in fact, the word pneuma or spirit, is mentioned 21 times in this chapter, 19 of them referring to the Holy Spirit.
We will hear of the truth of our adoption as children of God in chapter 8. We will be reminded in Romans 8:28 that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We will see the golden chain of Roman 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Then Romans 8 ends with reminding us we are more than conquerors and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If I had to sum up Romans 8 in one word, that word would be assurance. Today we start Romans 8 with a wonderful assurance.
Please stand as I read our text then we will pray and begin to unpack verses 1-4 today. (Page 1122 of the black pew bibles)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Chapter 8 starts with - There is therefore… What is the therefore - there for? This seems to be a big therefore. He doesn’t just say therefore. He starts chapter 8 with - there is therefore. We always say when we come to big connecting words like, because, since, for or therefore we need to look both ways, before and after, to see what point the author, in this case Paul, is trying to make. Is Paul summing up something or making a new point with this therefore or both?
Both is probably the best answer. Paul’s case for the Gospel has been building and is coming to a point that Paul wants to emphasize here, but for us to get the gravity of the therefore, I think it would be helpful to give a brief overview of where we have been in Paul’s defense of the Gospel.
Paul started to make his case with our first memory verse about six months ago, Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We like Paul, should not be ashamed of it, we recognize it is the power of God that it brings salvation, and it is for everyone who believes.
Paul then proceeds to give us a clear, logical argument for this gospel often taking us off on what some might call rabbit trails, but rabbit trails of deep truths that we will spend the rest of our lives studying the depths. But the thread of the Gospel is obvious and everywhere in Romans. The truths of the Gospel and our realities as people of faith in the good news of Jesus Christ.
We can’t even begin the Gospel without stating the obvious. The truth that all men know, even those who suppress it, that there is a God who created all things and has authority, is sovereign over his creation. The evidence is overwhelming. Romans 1:19-20 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Then we have see God’s wrath being revealed, his righteous judgement and the law through Romans chapter’s 1 & 2.
Romans 3:10 made clear that no one is righteous and 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The truth is clear, that all mankind has no righteousness that would warrant salvation, both Jew and Greek have a sin problem. They can’t save themselves from.
Chapter 4 Paul reminds us of God’s Covenant with Abraham, that God’s plan for salvation has always been faith. Not faith in our own works, but faith in God’s promise – Abraham’s offspring - Jesus. Romans 4:3 Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Chapter 5 begins just like chapter 8 with a - Therefore, another of the true realities of the Gospel for those who believe. Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The rebellion against God is over through Jesus. The war that we have waged against God is over. Our justification is by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and it brings peace with God.
Chapter 6 was focused on our death to sin and life in Christ. Which is what we believe baptism is picture of for believers. Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Paul makes clear that this is only possible because of what God has done. Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
Which brought us to Chapter 7 that was back to the law. The law that aroused in us sinful passions in our flesh, that held us captive – we have been released from - another reality for believers. We have died to the law through the body of Christ. We have not only died to sin but also to the law. But then we see Paul delighting in the law – what Phil preached on last week.
Then Paul ends chapter 7 with an example, that some believe is an unbeliever’s battle with sin, but what Phil and I believe is: it a believer’s battle with sin. Whichever side of that debate you choose, Paul brings chapter 7 to a close with a question Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Immediately followed with an answer in Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So here we are at the beginning of what many say, and I agree, is the greatest chapter in the bible. Why? well we are just going to start that case today. But what a wonderful place to start. Verse 1 which I condensed a little for the title of my sermon.
Now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
When we put our faith in Jesus, the truth of the Gospel overwhelms a Christian. We see God for who he is, we see ourselves for who we are, and we see Jesus for who he is and what he has done. He has brought us peace with God, which is only possible through Jesus. And now we hear these sweet words in Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The penalty that we owe and deserve, we do not have to pay. For those of us here who believe in Jesus, and I hope that is or will be everyone. Let those words ring in your ears. Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I hope that is as good to hear today, as the first time you heard it. But sometimes we can get a little casual as we read this text and not let the full meaning and weight sink in.
This sentence is from the highest court, the supreme court, the King of kings, the author and creator of the universe has declared those who believe in Jesus Christ not guilty.
When we think of condemning someone we think of the court rendering a judgement of guilty. Then there is the sentencing phase and then the actual punishment. Before we go to far into this not guilty sentencing. It would be helpful for us to understand the Greek word here for condemnation. It is katakrima (ka-ta-kre-ma). It is a word that is really inclusive of the guilty judgement, the sentence, and the punishment.
The word katakrima is only used in this form 3 times in all the bible, all in Romans. The other two times are in chapter 5 in reference to sin or trespass entering the world through one man, Adam and the judgement it brought to all. Romans 5:16 For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation and then Romans 5:18 one trespass led to condemnation for all men.
In the beginning, in Genesis, we see God making clear the punishment for trespassing God’s command. God said in Genesis 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Since then, death has reigned because all mankind sins. As it says in Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death.
Now some people will try to tell you that, that death is all there is – you are just dead after you die – you just cease to exist, it is over for you. But that is not what this word Katakrima or condemnation is declaring here. And it is not the message of the bible.
The bible is filled with descriptions of God’s wrath and coming condemnation or judgement. We have seen God’s wrath described as already being revealed in Romans 2. And Romans 2:8-9 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
There is verse after verse that describe the condemnation and wrath that sinners deserve. Here are just a few examples to help us feel the weight of it:
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Ezekiel 25:17 I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”
Speaking of the dead when they are raised in Daniel 12:2 some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
1 Thess. 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Jesus talks about condemnation and wrath, more than most things and here is a sampling in:
Matt 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matt 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment
Matt 13:50 And throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mark 9:48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
Then when history as we know it wraps up in Revelation we see John writing of the condemned:
Rev 21:8 their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Rev. 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night,
Now with that fuller, yet incomplete, understanding of condemnation – let me read verse one again:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
How sweet are those words, when we are reminded of what we deserve?
Let’s start to dig a litter deeper in verse 1. There are 3 realities Paul makes about the No Condemnation or the Not Guilty Verdict that I want to highlight for believers today
Let’s start where Paul starts with the Now aspect of No Condemnation. What does it mean that there is Now no condemnation?
This is what we often refer to as the already. You are already justified, by faith, so you stand not guilty - now.
If you look at verse 2 of our text today. Paul gives us the reason. Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The reality for a Christian is that you have been set free from the power of sin and death. You should find in your bibles the word Spirit here is capitalized. Correctly so, for it is the power of the Holy Spirit that has freed you.
Paul seems to be contrasting two laws, but what are these two laws? Paul has covered a lot of ground regarding the law in Romans so far, so what is he contrasting here?
What does Paul mean by the Law of the Spirit of Life? Remember the discussion Jesus had with Nicodemus in John chapter 3 we can see what Paul is speaking of in a sense of a law. Jesus did not call the Spirit, a law of life, but he did tell Nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The reality is - that this no Condemnation is NOW, and this comes from the new birth of the Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Most theologians believe Paul is using the word law here to contrast the power that the law had over us with the power that the Gospel has when birthed in us.
We see this freeing, by the power of the Spirit, from sin and death described earlier in Romans 6:20-22 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God.
So you have been freed Now, for those who believe, from the power of sin and which led to death and condemnation. So there is therefore Now no condemnation! It is a current reality for a believer.
Next let’s look at the 2nd reality of a believer.
No Condemnation – it is a complete reality
It doesn’t say there is some condemnation or partial condemnation. It says No condemnation. The Greek word is Oude (U – de) according to HELPS word study online it says Oude means (“nothing at all") it is a powerful negating conjunction. It rules out by definition, i.e. "shuts the door" objectively and leaves no exceptions.
It seems the word chosen by Paul as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit was an emphatic NO. What assurance we have in this word and this not guilty verdict.
But the reason for the completeness of this verdict is given to us in verse 3 of our text today. Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.
You see the problem is not the law, as Paul has said earlier in chapter 7 the law is holy, righteous and good. The problem is us - and the law clearly points that out – we can’t keep the law.
So, if God is sovereign, why not just remove the penalty - give a pardon or - a reprieve to sinners, just set aside the law? Does he really have to judge and condemn?
That would make God untrue to his word. Paul has made clear in Romans 3:4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,“That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
God is always true to his word. God is holy, holy, holy and has set the law and it must be fulfilled. The only way the condemnation can be complete is if it is paid for in full. God’s wrath must be satisfied.
For those who believe in Jesus, we see that penalty paid by Christ. By sending his own son, not in sinful flesh, because he never sinned. He is the perfect, spotless, lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, He, God the father, poured out his wrath on the only sacrifice that could make the payment for our sin complete. He condemned the sins of those who believe in his son Jesus, on the cross.
He did not ask Jesus to pay for some of the sins of those who believe in him and we have to finish the job by good works. To use a football comparison – he did not carry the ball most of the way and we have carry it over the goal line ourselves.
Christ did not pay for some of our sins, not the worst of our sins, not just our sinful actions, but every sinful thought and every sinful deed. Past, present and future. I think that is why Paul uses himself as the believer still struggling with sin in chapter 7 from last week. To remind those who do believe that even the sins we do in the flesh after we believe in Jesus, even those sins are paid for. Past, present and future sins are paid in full.
And there is no purgatory, that someone else can save us from later after we have died. Once we have died we either stand in grace before God or we stand condemned.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
On the cross, Jesus proclaimed it is finished – done - complete. The work on the cross, the wages for believer’s sins have been completely paid. Everyone of the sins of those who believe have been condemned on the cross in Jesus.
There is therefore now No Condemnation. A complete reality for a believer, because Christ has completed it.
Which brings us to the third and final reality for believer.
This reality of Now No Condemnation is conditional.
It is only for those who are in Christ Jesus. What is the significance of this word in. We can understand the basic concept of in or out. You are either one or the other you can’t be both. But what do you think of when you think of being in something? You were out, but now you are in, you are a part of, in union with, or a member of.
But how does this apply to believers in Jesus Christ? Have you ever heard anyone say they are in Buddha or in Mohammad? What does in Christ mean, for those who believe in Jesus?
Let me remind us of what we have heard so far in Romans
We have - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ Romans 3:22
Our Redemption is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:24
We are - dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11
the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus Romans 6:23
We have been - set free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 8:1
Everything that we are, in Christ, is everything that matters; and it is all because we are in Jesus Christ. But what does it look like for those who believe in Christ Jesus? Look at verse 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Believer’s, we are called live out this work that the Spirit of Jesus Christ has done in our lives. What we could not do before we believed the good news of the Gospel – We are now our empowered to live out by the Spirit, no longer does sin control us. For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
If we believe verse 1. There is therefore Now No Condemnation – it is a reality Now, Completely and for those in Christ Jesus - live like we believe it. You have the power of the Spirit of Christ in you and you are in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. So we are a new creation in Christ.
We are also as a group of believer’s - called the body of Christ. Ephesian 5:30 we are members of his body. His hands, his feet, his arms, his legs – his body. We, the gathered assembly here are his body. We are places here as fellowship of believers to love as Christ loved and serve as Christ served. You are born into a family of believers called the church.
Now there are probably some here today who have not put their faith in Jesus. I want you to feel the weight of the coming judgement and condemnation. John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. I want you to know that there is only one way to be saved, by faith in Jesus Christ.
When Christians share this good news, we should not be ashamed to tell people of this coming judgement. We should love them enough to warn them that Jesus is the one and only way to salvation.
So, let us leave here unashamed for all our shame was nailed to the cross with Christ there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let the freedom of that sentence bring joy to you and courage to boldly proclaim the good news. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 18, 2018
Thanks to Molly, I have been blessed by being a part of a Charles Spurgeon Facebook page, which means all day long I see quotes from the Prince of Preachers. This week I saw one that said, “The Bible in memory is better than the Bible in the bookcase.” And this is why we memorize Scripture. So with that said, let us begin with our February memory verse, Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Before we read our text for this morning, I want to draw your attention to the title of this message, “Delight in the Law.” Now some of you may think nothing of the title, and others of you may think that I am schizophrenic. And this would be because last week, the title of my sermon was “Dead to the Law.” So which is it? Are we dead to the law or do we delight in the law? Yes.
And hopefully, by the end of today, God willing, that answer will make sense. So with that said, let us stand in honor of the reading of God’s Holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
Last week we unpacked the question, how do Christians relate to the law? To that question Paul answered in verse 4 by saying, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” So what does Paul mean when he says that Christians have died to the law through the Body of Christ?
First, we are dead to law in that we know that the law cannot save us. We know that only Jesus saves. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. We understand that the purpose of the law is to show us our sin, it does not have the power to stop sin. Therefore, we are dead to the lie that law keeping can bring salvation, or maintain salvation.
Second, we are dead to the law in that the law no longer arouses us to sin more. We were told that before we were followers of Christ, our totally depraved nature reacted rebelliously to the law. That prior to being born again, our sinful passions were awakened by the law with a longing to break the law; that the law actually made us sin more. However, when we place our faith in Jesus, this ends. No longer does the law cause us to sin more. As a new creation, we start sinning less. Therefore, we are dead to the downward spiral of sin that results from the existence of the law.
Third, we are dead to the penalty of the law, which is death. Our memory verse for February is Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is what the law of God requires, our eternal death. However, in Christ this legal penalty no longer applies to us, for it has been applied to Christ on the cross. Jesus died; therefore, anyone in Jesus no longer has to eternally die. Death has no power over us. Therefore, we are dead to the penalty that the law requires.
So in those three ways, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are dead to the law. Having said that, this does not mean that the law is irrelevant to us. Some people, after reading that section of the Bible think that the moral law of God no longer plays a role in their Christian walk, and that is just not true as we will see today.
As we enter into verse 13-25, I want you to be aware of the two views regarding this text. The first view is that verse 13-25 are discussing an unbeliever’s battle with sin. The other view is that verses 13-25 are discussing the believer’s battle with sin. Let me tell you up front that I take the second position that these verses are discussing a believer’s battle with sin.
Just to give you some understanding of the difference of opinions regarding this text, most of the early church fathers, those who lived immediately after the apostles, believed that Romans 7 was about an unbeliever. However, there was as a shift around the time of Augustine (400 A.D.). Augustine changed his understanding of Romans 7 during his back and forth with a person named Pelagius. Augustine's new view being that Romans 7 described Paul’s post conversion battle with Sin. This view became the dominate view by the early reformers: Luther, Calvin, etc. This view is also held by others such as John Owen, Charles Hodge, JI Packer, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and John Piper, to name a few.
The other view, that this text is a description of an unbeliever, was held by John Wesley, Herman Ridderbos, Anthony Hoekema, Thomas Schriener, Paul Washer, and Douglas Moo, whose commentary I am currently reading.
I list those names so that you can feel the tension that exists and cut people some slack. I have great respect for most, not all, of those people I just listed, so we need to be somewhat careful in throwing them under the bus, for this text is not abundantly clear. But as I said, my view on this passage is that this is Paul’s description of himself after he was born again, and that will be my approach to teaching this text.
The Law is Good
Let us begin by all agreeing with what Paul says in Romans 7, that the law is good. Verse 12 says, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” What is not good is our sin. The law itself is a good thing.
Why is the law good? Look at verse 14. It says that the law is spiritual. What does that mean? It simply means that the law of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter speaks of this in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore the law was given to men by men who were carried along by the Spirit of God.
Therefore, the law is good because the law is from God. The law is the revelation from God of His will, His standard of living. And as we saw last week, the law is what reveals to us our sin. The spiritual law of God shows us our sin nature and our need to place our faith in Jesus. The spirit inspired law directs our path to Jesus Christ.
Prior to repenting and believing in Jesus, we rejected God’s law. As we saw in Romans 1 we were ungodly, unrighteous, we suppressed the truth about God, we did not honor God, we did not give thanks to God, we were fools and exchanged His glory for our own glory. As it says in Romans 3 we were unrighteous, we didn’t’ seek God, we had turned from him, we were worthless, doing absolutely no good.
But all of this changes when we are born again and begin to follow Jesus. Instead of rejecting God’s will, we now desire His will. The law that at one time produced in us a desire to rebel because of our total depravity, is now delight in. Look at verse 22 and how Paul describes his relationship with the law of God, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,” The NASB translates this, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Does this sound like an unbeliever? Not at all.
So what does Paul mean when he says, “For I delight in the law of God.” My mind automatically goes to Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” We see the same thing in Psalm 112:1, “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!” Then again in Psalm 119 we see the Psalmist use the word delight ten separate times in that chapter to describe his feelings about God’s law. Psalm 119:174 says, “I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.” This is how Paul sees the law, as his delight.
And this delight in God’s law is not superficial. It is not Pharisaical. It is a joy that he has in his inner being. What does inner being mean? This is a reference to the renewed man, the regenerate man, the man that is not of Adam but that is of Christ. Paul, here, is speaking of a the new heart, the new life that now exists within a born again believer.
Paul speaks again of this inner man in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when he says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Then again in Ephesians 3:16 Paul writes, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” This inner man is the new creation that you become upon repentance and faith in Christ.
In my daily Bible reading plan, I was in Matthew 23 which is the chapter where Jesus rips into the Scribes and Pharisees and says to them in verses 25-27, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
The scribes and Pharisees did not have a inner being that delighted in the law of God, instead they were dead inside, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. There relationship with the law was completely superficial. This is not what we are seeing in Romans 7. We see a man who loves the law of God, and desires to live consistent with God’s will.
And this is a mark of a true Christian. A true Christians delights in God's Word. A true Christians loves his Father, and longs to hear His voice in the living and active Word of Scripture. Remember, all Scripture is God breathed. If you do not have this desire to read your Bible, than I would be very concerned about your salvation, for one who has the abiding seed of God's Word implanted in his heart, does not despise God's Word, but delights in it.
The War of the Flesh
But in our text, we have a problem. Look at verse 14 again, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” Who is Paul talking about? Himself. Paul sees himself “of the flesh.” What does that mean? To begin we must understand that Paul does not say “in the flesh” he says “of the flesh.” What is the flesh? The word in Greek is sarkikos (sär-kē-ko's), which is, at times, translated “carnal”. To be of the flesh means to approach things in a creaturely way, like a human, versus a spiritual way. Paul uses the exact same word when addressing the Christians at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:1 when he says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” The people of Corinth were living “of the flesh” and not of the Spirit. And this is what Paul is alluding to in Romans 7.
Christians, even though we are born again, even though we are justified, even though we are in Jesus, even though we are dead to sin, we are still of the flesh. We still think worldly, we still thing creaturely, we still sin. And I would guess that you all would agree to this, for your life is a testament to this fact that Christians still sin. There is no such thing as a perfect Christian. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
After becoming a Christian we find ourselves in a position that is called “Already, but not yet.” We have been cleansed by the blood of the lamb, yet still sin remains in us. That we are justified, but not yet perfectly sanctified.
Even the great Apostle Paul struggled with the sin that dwells in him. You can see this in our text today. It is like a wrestling match between the sin that continues to dwell in him and his inner man. In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Really? Paul, the foremost sinner? In Philippians 3:12 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul, despite being justified through the blood of Jesus was not perfect. He still stumbled, he still sinned. He presses on for perfection, but it remains out of his grasp until he sees Jesus face to face.
And as I said, we see this very clearly in our text for today. Look at verse 15. Paul says of himself, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul hates the sin that he sees in his life. He despises it. His greatest desire, in his heart, is to do the will of God, but what does he see when he looks at his actions? He sees himself as a wretched sinner. Paul is dead to sin, for it is not his master, yet he still sees sin in his life, and it repulses him.
This is a mark of a mature Christian. One who recognizes the holiness of God, and how far we fall short of that standard. It is a standard we see from the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6, when he stands in the presence of of a Holy God and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” The closer you are to God to more you see your fallenness.
As I ponder Isaiah 6 and Romans 7, I wonder where are the Isaiah's and where are the Paul's of today. Where are those Christians who hate their sin? Where are those who see themselves in the light of God's Word, and cry out “wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death.” Unfortunately, the Church is full, not of wretched men like Paul, but self-righteous men like the Pharisees.
It reminds me of a parable that Jesus shared in Luke 18:10, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Oh what God would do in our lives and in this Church if we delighted in God's Word in our inner being and hated the sins in our lives. For where would our focus be if we did? Look at verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Delighting in the law and hating our sin, drives leads us to Calvary. We fall at the cross of our savior and cling to his nailed pierced feet. This is a mark of a true Christian; one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
But how do we become that man? Simple, by delighting in the law in our inner man. By spending day after day reading God's spiritual law, shining the light of God's Word upon our lives to expose the sin that still clings to us. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more we will hate the sin that dwells in us.
And as it says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Let us begin this morning with our February memory verse. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I hope that all of you are spending your time equipping yourselves with these Bible verses, the Sword of the Spirit.
This morning we find ourselves in Romans 7. We will spend this Sunday and next Sunday unpacking this very interesting chapter. After that, God willing, Pastor Jeff will be teaching on February 25th and launching the greatest chapter in the entire Bible, Romans 8. Which we will spend at least one month or more unpacking. But today, let us turn our attention to our text Romans 7:1-12. Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
The Scandal of the Gospel
Let us begin by talking about the scandal that is the gospel. As we have seen over the last several months, the gospel of Jesus Christ is radical in its nature. In fact, our memory verse from Romans 6:23 is a classic example of this. It says that the wages of sin is death. This means that this is what sinners deserve. This is what our rebellious life earns us. Eternal death in Hell is a just and right punishment for our transgression.
However, the second part of Romans 6:23 is “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So instead of eternal death, sinners are able to receive eternal life. And the way we get eternal life is through the “free gift of God.” Therefore, there is nothing we have to do to earn this free gift. It is a gift. It is free. You just receive it. And all of this is achieved through the person of Christ Jesus. So we deserve hell, but we get heaven, all because of Jesus? Yes. This is the gospel, and it is scandalous.
Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
To be justified is to be declared not guilty, and we “have been” (passed tense) justified by faith. This faith in Christ achieves peace with God. We stand not in our own merit, but in the grace of Christ upon the cross. And because of this, we look forward to being with God in glory. That is the gospel and it is scandalous.
And because the gospel is so scandalous, people will automatically make objections to it. In fact, their objections are proof that you probably shared the Gospel correctly. The two objections that Paul hears over and over again during his ministry are 1) Won’t the gospel give people freedom to sin? And 2) What about the law?
To the first question, Paul addressed in Romans 6. He pointed out their misunderstanding of what occurs to a person’s heart when they become a follower of Jesus. That when you place your faith in Jesus there is a seismic shift in your soul, whereby you fundamentally change your relationship with sin. No longer do you obey sin, instead you obey Jesus. He becomes your new master. Faith in Christ isn’t just about payment of sin, it is also power over sin. At that point of conversion, God changes your affections. He opens your eyes to the depravity of sin and the beauty of Christ. You become a new creation.
Today we will cover the second objection, what about the law? How does the Son of God affect the law of God? What relationship does a Christian have with the law?
What is the Law?
So let us start by asking, what is the law? The apostle Paul uses the word law 53 times in the book of Romans. In this chapter alone it is used 23 times. In verse 1 says, “Or do you not know brothers, for I am speaking to those who know the law.” The Apostle Paul assumes that his readers know the law. So what law is Paul talking about?
When thinking about the law as it relates to the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are generally three categories of the law: 1)The moral law, 2) the ceremonial law, and 3) the judicial law. This concept can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, specifically chapter 19. The moral law is just as it sounds. It is the general law of what is right and what it wrong. This is a law that applies to all of mankind. The ceremonial law is the law as it relates to the nation of Israel during the time of the Old Testament that included ceremonial sacrifices, ceremonial cleansing, ceremonial duties such as the obligations of the Priests in the Old Testament. And finally the judicial laws were the laws that related to Israel as a political nation. These laws would have included things like property rights, employments rights, and other civil regulations that are needed for a polity to function. Some of these things somewhat overlap when they are all mixed together in a theocracy, but make no mistake the categories are helpful. So which category of law does the Apostle Paul have in mind: the moral law, the ceremonial law, or the judicial law?
To answer that question we need to go to verse 6. The Apostle Paul writes, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” So what is the law? Paul describes it as the old way of the written code. So what is this old written code?
Let's keep reading, verse 7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Does that sound familiar, “You Shall not covet”? It should, for it is one of the ten commandments found in the old written code of Exodus 20. In fact it is the oldest of the written code of God. Let's turn their and look at this old written code in Exodus 20, kids included. Let's work on some sword drills.
So in Romans 7, Paul seems to be talking about the laws of the Ten Commandments. So is this the moral law, the ceremonial law, or the judicial law? It is the moral law. It is the universal law that applies to all humanity, not just the theocratic nation stated of Israel. These are the laws are held against all humanity, gentiles included.
What is the Purpose of the Law?
The next thing we need to ask, is what is the purpose of these moral laws that God has placed upon humanity. Let us again look at verse 7, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Verse 7 tells us that the moral law reveals sin. Which means that sin is something that exists in us and the law of God acts like a mirror or a flashlight upon our soul to show us our wretchedness.
This has already been brought up before by Paul in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The purpose of the law is to bring us knowledge of our sin. In my study I liked the way Dr. Phil Williams put it, “The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is, not the broom that sweeps it clean.”
With this in mind, it makes a great deal of sense that the first thing that God did with his people Israel after he brought them out of Egypt was to turn on the light by giving them the ten commandments. God desired for them to know their wretchedness.
Now what is interesting about the law is how the sin nature responds to it. Look at verse 5, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” This verse speaks to how wretched we are, that the law, which is from God, causes in our flesh a desire to disobey. The great theologian, Augustine in his great work, “Confessions” described how when he was a boy he and his friends use to steal pears from a neighbor's pear tree. One would think it was for the purpose of eating the pears, but that was not the case. He admitted that they gave most of the pears to the pigs. Augustine stated, ““Perhaps we ate some of them, but our real pleasure consisted in doing something that was forbidden.”
This desire to do what is forbidden is not limited to little boys and pear trees, it is in the heart of every man, every descendent of Adam, the pleasure that comes from doing what is forbidden.
This is why the Apostle Paul confesses in verse 8, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” As Paul says, the law awakens sin in our lives, the sin that exists, the sin we don't see. Once again, Paul has already mentioned this truth in Romans 5:20 when he said, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass.”
Therefore the fruit that is produced by the law in an unregenerate heart is more and more and more and more sin. As we saw last week, lawlessness produces more lawlessness. And the end of that cycle of law and sin, law and sin, law and sin is what? Look at verse 5 again, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” The final fruit of a life that lives in the flesh is the fruit of death.
And this is what the law of God requires, death. This is the penalty according to the law of God. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Death is what we deserve. For me, this makes a lot of sense, for I spend my days reading the Iowa Criminal Code. It has laws such as “thou shall not kill” and “thou shall not steal” and with each one of those laws, there is an associated penalty. The law requires a punishment.
What is our Relationship with the Law?
So with all of that under our belt, let us now ask the question, what about Christians? What is a follower of Jesus Christ's relationship with the moral law? Verse 4 has our answer, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
When you repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ, not only do we die to our old selves, but we also die to the law. In order for us the understand this fundamental truth, Paul uses the analogy of marriage. Before we place our faith in Christ we are married to the law. We are bound to it. It controls us. It is has a power over us. We are yoked to it. It is our husband. So just like we are slaves to sin, we are also under the authority of the law, both its control and its condemnation.
But all of that changes when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. The yoke of the law is taken from our shoulders. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The yoke of Jesus is not like the yoke of the law. The yoke of Jesus is easy. How so? Because Jesus is the one who fulfilled the legal requirements of the moral law.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus fulfilled the law by never sinning. He never stole a pear from his neighbor's pear tree. This is why the yoke of Jesus is light, because Jesus does all the work. Christ pulls the plow.
And this is why we are dead to the law, because Jesus has fulfilled the law. There is nothing left for us to do. The law is no longer our husband we have been released from the law, through faith in Christ.
I want us all to understand how terminal this relationship is. We are dead to the law and the law is dead to us. This is a complete severance. In fact, in Paul's analogy with marriage he says, “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive.” This means that you can't have a relationship with the law and have a relationship with Christ. You must pick one or the other. You can't say that Jesus is your savior and then also try to save yourself through sacraments, penance, or purgatory. You can't say Jesus plus works equal salvation. That is adultery. You must pick one or the other, either Jesus is your husband or the law is your husband.
Now, at this point, some would start to want to circle back, and want to argue that a law free life will lead to debauchery. But do not forget what we have already studied in Romans 5 and 6. Paul reminds us of this in verse 6,”But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
When we become Christians, we are dead to the law, but we are alive in the Spirit. This is the new way. And this new way is not like the old way with its written code upon stone. As Paul so eloquently says in 2 Corinthians 3:3, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Christians walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. We are dead to the law and free from its power over us and its condemning punishment. However, this does not mean that the law is irrelevant to our lives. And we will talk more about that next Sunday. Let's pray.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 4, 2018
Today marks the first Sunday in February, that means a new monthly memory verse. Our memory verse is located in our text that we will be studying today. Most likely, it is a familiar one to many of you, but all of us, young and old, new Christians and old Christians need to be equipped with this verse significantly important verse, Romans 6:23. Let us read it together. “For the wages of sin is death, both the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In your bulletins, you should have a sheet of paper that has every single memory verse we have had since we began Romans. Hopefully, this sheet will help you and your family brush up on the past verses and keep you moving forward on the new verse.
This morning, I want to once again remind you why we have monthly memory verses. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” The purpose of God providing Shepherds and teachers, which is just another way to say Pastor, is to equip each of you for ministry. My role, my calling by God, is to equip you. To give you what you need to be successful in the work that God has prepared for you.
The primary piece of equipment that you need to accomplish the work of God is the Word of God. Without the Word of God, you don’t stand a chance against Satan’s attacks. Parents, if you want your children to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, teach them these verses. If you want them to overcome the schemes of Satan that can wreak havoc on their lives, teach them these verses.
Right before Moses died he said these words in Deuteronomy 32:46-47, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.” These memory verses are not empty, they are your very life. Do you view them that way? You should.
With that said, let us turn out attention to our words of life for this morning. Please stand for the reading of our God’s Holy Word. We are in Romans 6:15-23.
Our text this morning picks up where we left off last time. If you notice, verse 15 is almost identical to verse 1. In verse 1 Paul asks the questions, are we to continue to sin that grace may about?” In verse 15 Paul asks the question, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” To both of those questions, Paul vehemently states, “By no means!”
As we saw last week, this kind broken theology is satanic; for arguing that followers of Jesus are free to sin as these please, completely undermines the truth that undergirds our salvation. This truth being that when a person, repents and believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, a supernatural transformative event occurs. We call this event conversion. It is the moment that through faith we are unified with Christ and our old self dies. We ended last week with a quote from Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
For every Christian, there was a specific point in time where this event of conversion occurred. There is no such thing as in between. You are either born again, or you are dead. Therefore, there is a historical moment in your life, in fact it is the biggest moment in your life, when you became a new creation. Now, for some of you, especially those who grew up in a Christian home, you may not know when that was. Was it when you were five? Was it when you were at Church camp? Was it when you were in college? Was it when you first started coming to this Church? You are just not sure because you don’t have this outward miraculous display like a lightning bolt hitting you, but make no mistake if you are a true Christian, there was a moment where you were united with Jesus Christ.
Slaves to Sin
But how do you know if you are true Christian? Great question. I think this question should be asked by more people. We are told there are 2 billion Christians in this world. And this statistic is based on self-reporting people who claim to be a Christian. Now the problem with self-reporting is that your opinion about your salvation is not always accurate. You may think you are a Christian, when you are in fact not. So how do you know?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
The way you know if you are saved, i.e. a “good tree”, is to examine your fruit. To examine what you produce in your life day after day. If you are saved, the evidence of your salvation will be good things. If you are not saved, the evidence of your condemnation will be bad things.
In our text today, we are unpacking the exact same fundamental truth. Look at verse 16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” If you present yourself to sinning, then that proves that you are a slave to sin. It proves that sin is your master. It proves that sin is your Lord. Christians do not submit to sin, just like apple trees do not produce thorns.
The apostle John speaks about this same issue in 1 John 3:9 when he says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” That is strong language, “No one.” What is important to understand is that this statement in both 1 John 3 and Romans 6 is a spiritual fact. It is not a suggestion. It is not optional. It is truth. If you have been united to Christ through faith, then everything automatically changes.
Now before we move on, I want to draw your attention to important truth that our text teaches us. Romans 6 teaches us that there is no such thing as absolute human freedom. You are either in one of two camps, a slave to sin or a slave to God. Over the years I have heard it dozens and dozens of times that God has given us free will. Many people believe that the concept of free will is what makes us truly human. But what does God's Word say in Romans 6? It says we are either slaves of sin or slaves to God. Where do we find free will in those descriptions? It is not there. There is no room for free will, when you are a slave.
And this is how we must see humanity. We must understand the two forces that act upon us: the power of sin and the power of God. Humanity does not live in a spiritual vacuum. God has designed mankind to be disposed in one direction or the other. There is no neutrality. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.
Now if you call yourself a Christian, yet you continue to practice sin, if you continue to offer yourself up to sin as your Master, then I am afraid to tell you that you are not saved. Not because good works earn you salvation, but because good works prove your salvation. And that is fundamentally important, so let me say it again. Good works do not earn your salvation; good works prove your salvation. And why is this? It is because the death of Christ not only pays the penalty for your sin, it also gives you power over sin. Therefore if you display a power over sin, it is proof that you are a new creature in Christ and you are therefore destined for glory. If you do not display this power, in some form, then it is evidence you are still the same old sinful self under the wrath of God.
And this truth, this understanding, is the heart of Church discipline. For the Church is the called out assembly of God's people. Only God's people are to be part of the Church. But how do you know if someone is born of God. First, if they believe and confess that Jesus is Savior and Lord that is the first step. But after that we must evaluate their progress in the faith. If they sin, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 that we are to go to them one on one and confront them in their sin. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they continue to sin, we are commanded to take a small group of people to confront them again. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they continue to sin the entire Church is to confront the person about their sin. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they don't show signs of true repentance, then Jesus commands us that we must remove them out of his Church. Why? Because you will know a tree by its fruit, and their ongoing practice of sin is evidence that they are still a slave to sin and do not have the power from God to defeat it.
And not only do they not have the power to defeat the sin in their life, but as it says in verse 19, their lawlessness will lead to more lawlessness. If you are still a slave to sin, your sin leads to more sin. Here is an easy example of this. You commit a sin, and you have to cover it up, so what do you do? You lie. Then you get caught, and what is response? Anger, self pity, slandering your accuser. Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness.
And what is the ultimate end to this ever increasing lawlessness? Look at the first half of verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
This reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” That is a poem for life, for the person who picks the path of sin, his destiny is death. Your choice in this life makes all the difference in your destiny, life or death.
What kind of death? It is the death that is the opposite of eternal life, therefore it is an eternal death. A death that has no ending. A death that is suffocating in its weight. A death that is described in the Bible as eternal torment, eternal punishment, eternal destruction, an eternal fire, and unquenchable fire, a fiery furnace, a place that there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place that there is no rest day or night, a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, a place of gloom and utter darkness. It is a death whereby God's wrath is forever poured out on your mind, body, and soul for all time with no hope for escape. And this is what we have earned if we offer ourselves up to sin as our Master. Is it worth it? To continue to present your bodies to sin? Is it worth selling your soul to gain the world?
Slaves to God
So is their hope? Yes. Look at verse 17, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Notice who is being thanked in verse 17, God. God is the one who is our hope. God is the one who saves us. It is God's plan. It is God's Son. It is God's Spirit. It is God's power. From beginning to end, God gets all the glory for our victory over sins' penalty and power.
So what does God do to change our destiny? Verse 17 tells us that we have become obedient from the heart. What does that mean? It means that God transforms us from the inside out. He changes our heart. He changes our spiritual taste-buds. He changes our affections. Instead of loving sin, we hate it. Instead of hating God, we love Him. And he does this through the power of the gospel. The gospel is what converts us. It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.
In Ezekiel 36:26, a book written over 500 years before Jesus was born, God spoke of this future reality in Christ when he said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Did you catch that, this new heart, this new spirit that God gives us will cause us to walk in God's ways. That sounds a lot like Romans 6, Matthew 7, and 1 John 3.
This is our new way of life, to walk in God's ways. No longer do we do what pleases us. We do what pleases Him. When this spiritual heart surgery occurs we go from being a slave to sin to a slave to righteousness, a slave to God. He is now our Master. He is now our Lord. Whatever he asks of us, we are to say, “Yes, Lord.” No matter what the cost. No matter what the risk.
But is that they way you see you life? Is that the way others would see you life? As a slave to God. When people watch you make decisions; when people listen to you speak; when people see what you spend your money on; when people see your posts on facebook, do they see a slave of God or a friend of the World? As it says in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
There is a reason that I chose to title this sermon with the most in your face phrase that is found in our verses. I want us to feel the shock of this statement and for us to see how inconsistent the Bible is with how we life our lives. I want us to understand that if you are a Christian, this is your calling. This is your purpose. This is your destiny. And this is your freedom. This is your joy to be a slave of God.
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote this words from a Romans prison. Philippians 1:18-26, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
Paul begins the prison letter of Philippians describing himself as a slave of Jesus. And in this text he is rejoicing knowing that his two options are either die and be with Jesus, or live and be an instrument in the hands of God for the faith and joy of others. And in between these two options we see Paul saying, “In this I rejoice.” Paul was most alive, when he died to self and lived for God.
So I leave you each with a question, who is your master? Who is making decisions in your life? Are you, or is God? Are you ready to present your members to righteousness? Are you ready to present yourself to your God, who formed you, and called you, and justified you, and who will glorify you. Are you finally ready to pick up your cross and follow Jesus? Trust me, you will not regret it.