Free to Live

Translating the Gospel to Our Lives

Part 3: Free to Live

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Welcome back, I hope you have all had a nice time with friends and resting. I’m going to give us a quick review of what we have looked at so far. And then we are going to dive right in.

So, this weekend we’re answering the question: How does the Gospel transform our lives? How does the gospel speak to our day to day lives? First, we talked about how the gospel speaks to us about God’s love for us and how His love for us is meant to permeate our lives everyday. Then this morning we talked about how the message of the gospel teaches us about our union with Christ and how that applies to our sin nature and living freed from sin.

And as we finished our study in Romans 6 this morning, we briefly touched on Paul’s call to the Romans to embrace that new life in Christ, offering themselves as instruments of righteousness, living their lives for God under grace. And that is what we are going to be focusing on this afternoon, this call on our lives to live the new life and what that looks like. Or in the form of the question we are asking this weekend: How does the gospel transform our lives day to day in light of God’s grace and our call to new life?

We’re going to be in Romans 7 and 8. So go ahead and turn there if you’re using your Bible, or you can follow along on the handout.

The Struggle to Live Free

So after dealing with our struggle to live free from sin despite the freedom from sin we have been given, Paul is now going to look at the tension that exists between our sin nature which we still battle with and our call to live for God in righteousness. He’s going to deal with the issue of still being prone to sin despite being free from sin’s control over us. We are freed from the control of sin but we still battle sin’s temptation. And the truth is, this is a tension that is hard for us to reconcile. So Paul lets his readers know that he struggles with it as well. He’s going to be very honest about his own struggle with sin and his inability to conquer it on his own in order to live for God. And he’s going to paint a picture that we can all relate with. So let’s look at what he says, starting in Romans 7, verse 18…

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 

A quick side note about what Paul says here. There has been a long standing debate over whether he is talking about our struggle with sin before we are in Christ or our struggle with sin after we are in Christ. But most likely, he is talking about the latter, the tension that still remains after we are in Christ, so that’s how we’re going to view this passage.

Now as we look at Romans 7 I hope that you’re as thankful as I am that it’s in the Bible, because if it weren’t I think we would all walk around feeling ashamed that we still battle sin within us. But Paul being Paul highlights it so that we can’t ignore it or try to hide it. How many of you have ever told someone else that you have the “desire to do what is right” but not the “ability to carry it out?” Have you ever told anybody that? How many of you have told a friend or even your own child, “nothing good dwells in me” and I keep doing all this evil that I really don’t want to do? You probably haven’t!

The truth is, we don’t sit around talking about the sinful thoughts we have on a daily basis or the un-Christian things we do each day, we almost ignore those un-holy moments in our lives because we aren’t quite sure how they fit into being a new creation in Christ. So Paul wants us to know that it’s common to all believers to struggle with this tension. And he shares this in hopes that it will cause us to be honest about our sin and our inability to live in the freedom we have in Christ, because he knows that without that understanding we will never learn to live our lives dependent on the Lord.

So he goes on to talk about this…look at verse 21…

21   So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…

Paul wants to do good, he wants to offer himself to righteousness and live in the newness of life we have in Christ. See, when we are made new in Christ we are given new desires. So struggling against sin is actually proof that our hearts have been made new. The reason we struggle with guilt and shame is because God has put in us the desire to live for Him which causes us to recognize sin and long to live free from it. We recognize Christ in us when we think and feel this way. It’s actually something to celebrate, not something to be ashamed of! In verse 23 Paul recognizes that there is now a war waging inside of him between his new desires and the sin which still exists. Paul understands that he has been freed from the reign of sin but now he’s trying to reconcile this tension he feels. Sometimes we know the truth but we struggle to translate it to our lives, that’s what Paul is trying to think through here.

And it’s frustrating, so in verse 24 he cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”. But immediately, almost without a moment of hesitation, he shouts out the answer, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The answer is Jesus. Paul knows that not only did Jesus free us from sin’s control over us, but He also provides us the way to live free from sin, to not only desire to do good, but also the ability to do good. Paul doesn’t want to leave us for even a moment in a place of gloom and doom because He knows that in Christ we don’t need to dwell in that place any more!

Try to think of a time when you were really struggling with this tension in your own life. Maybe you can even think of a time in the last few days when you wanted to do the right thing, but you didn’t. When the power of sin just felt too great and so you gave in. Just like Paul, we know the answer, it’s Jesus. But often we get stuck in the place where we can only see how wretched our sin is and we don’t understand how to live free from it, how to live free for God. So now Paul is going to help us understand what to do from there, how to live in the freedom Christ has won for us in light of this struggle.

And what Paul is going to allude to in this next part is what theologians call “the now and the not yet” or the “already but not yet.” This means that we are saved from sin and death now or already, but the complete fulfillment of that will not be realized in us until the end, so, not yet. There will be a day when sin no longer exists and has no affect over us. But until then, in the now, our freedom from sin is ours but also requires a dependency on something greater than us. This is what Paul is explaining in chapter 8, how to live in the now, in light of the not yet.

The Law of Sin vs. The Law of the Spirit

Starting at the end of chapter 7, Paul begins his explanation of what this looks like, verse 25…

25 …So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 8:1 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 [the Mosaic 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.  

In verse 1 Paul starts by reassuring us that regardless of this tension in our lives, our spiritual standing hasn’t changed. And Paul does this because he knows that when we continue to sin despite being free from sin, at some point, we are all going to wonder if we are really saved after all. So he hammers home the truth that we do not stand condemned despite our failure to be able to resist sin, despite as Paul said, doing the evil that we do not want to do.

Then in verse 2 he explains why…It’s because we have been set free from the law of sin and death by the law of the spirit of life. If by “the law of sin and death,” he is referring to our “old self” that was ruled by sin which led to death (what we talked about this morning), then what does Paul mean when he says “the law of the spirit of life”? This is what he’s explaining to us here in chapter 8.

So in verses 3 and 4 he first explains that when we were under the law of sin and death, we were unable to uphold God’s law, the Mosaic law, because of our sin and flesh. But, when God sent Jesus to die for our sins, we were set free from the law of sin, in order that we could live under the law of the Spirit. So what Paul is saying is that we weren’t just released from the law of sin so that we could live for God on our own. But instead, we were released in order to live under another law, a law that would give us life instead of death. Where once sin leading to death ruled over us, now the Spirit rules over us giving us life. So there has been a transfer of power.

This means that in order to not live under the rule of sin, we must learn to live under the rule of the Spirit. This is how we live freed from sin and alive to God, by living, or as Paul says “walking”, by the “law of the Spirit”.

The Law of our Minds

So what is the law of the Spirit and how do we live by it? Look at verses 5-8, Paul explains…

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Mind set on the Flesh:

Back in chapter 7, verse 23, Paul said that there’s a war being waged within him against the “law of his mind”, and here in verse 5 he is now explaining what the “law of our minds” is. He begins by explaining that those who live according to the flesh have set their minds on the things of the flesh. The NIV translates that verse saying those who live by the flesh set their minds on “what the sin nature desires.” So those who continue to live as if they are slaves to sin have also filled their minds with selfish and sinful thoughts instead of the things of God. Their minds have been set on what their flesh desires.

Now, as women I think this concept isn’t too hard to understand. We tend to dwell on things and let them fester in our hearts and minds, sometimes even years after we thought we had gotten past them. I’m sure we have all had something that has bothered us, recently even, that falls into this category. Try to think of ways you set your mind on the things of the flesh and sin instead of the things of the spirit and life? What are some of the things you dwell on? Maybe jot those down on your handout.

Example: Difficult Friendship

I could probably give you a million current examples in my life, but one that really comes to mind is simply a friendship that has been difficult for me. Years ago I felt wronged and hurt by this friend. So, in a loving way I shared with her how I felt. But she was very defensive, never apologized, and was not willing to even talk about it. So, I prayed a lot about it and truly forgave her for how she hurt me.

But at times I find my mind drifting back into it…I find myself sometimes starting to create drama with her in my head or thinking of how I would like the opportunity to put her in her place, even scrutinizing things she says or does today in order to “uncover” her wrong motives and personal flaws, making myself angry all over again. My mind is set on the things of the flesh. And then suddenly I will “wake” up from going down that road in my mind and remind myself that I have forgiven her and that those thoughts are not from the Lord, they are set on what my flesh and sinful nature desires.

Maybe you have something similar to that in your life? A relationship that has been difficult, whether with a friend or a family member. Or simply a situation that you dwell on often. And as you set your mind on the things of your sin and flesh, it just seems to never heal or end.

This is what Paul explains here in verses 6-8, what happens when we set our minds on the things of the flesh:

    • In verse 6 he says that to set the mind on the flesh is death. It never results in life, but always results in death.
    • In verse 7 he says that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God and not submitted to God’s law, how He calls us to live. You see, when we set our minds on the desires of our flesh, we are returning to the ways of our “old self”, the one who was described in Romans 5 as being an enemy of God, the one who we learned this morning has no control over us. And Paul says there at the end of verse 7 that when we set our minds on the things of the flesh we are actually unable to live for God or submit to His will. And verse 8 says, when we do that, we can’t please God.
    • Think about that. What Paul is saying is that our minds and our lives go hand in hand. The “law of our minds” is simply this, that if our minds are set on sin, we will walk in sin. If our minds are set on the things of the flesh, then we will be unable to live for God, submit to his will, or please Him.
    • With my friend who hurt me, when I allow myself to think those thoughts about her, I feel my heart and soul dying, there is a loss of joy and peace and life. And when I fill my mind with those sinful thoughts and desires then I am unable to honor God with my actions towards her. My thoughts will determine the way I treat her.

Mind set on the Spirit:

But because of the grace of God, because of our union with Christ, we have another choice, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. And as Paul says, those who set their minds on the things of the Spirit, will be able to live according to the Spirit. This is also the law of the mind, that when our minds are set on the Spirit and the things the Spirit desires, our lives and actions will reflect that.

This is why as Paul begins to explain to us how to live for God by walking in the Spirit, he first starts with our minds. It is very important that we understand that in order to live for God our minds must also be set on the things of God. This is why later in Romans 12 Paul will tell the Romans that in order to “…not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” they must be “transformed by the renewing of [their] mind[s].”  Our minds are renewed as we set them on the things of God, resulting in changed lives and actions.

And just as when we set our minds on the things of the flesh it results in death, when we set our minds on what the Spirit desires it results in “life and peace.” And I’m sure we have all experienced this. Can you remember a time when you submitted your mind to the things of the Spirit and it resulted in life and peace? When you recognized that your mind was being dominated by sinful thoughts so you re-set your mind on the things of God and immediately felt God’s peace flow over you?

My Example:

With that friend I struggle with, when I do remind myself that I have forgiven her and that those sinful thoughts will only lead to death….and then set my mind on the things of God, the things the Spirit desires, it always results in life and peace. Only when I set my mind on the things of God am I then able to love her and enjoy her friendship, seeing her as God sees her and no longer dwelling on my own sinful and selfish desires. And I am always amazed when God does this for me because it is so contrary to my own selfish desires. No matter how long you have been a believer, it is always so shocking to experience this, it is always so humbling. And when we do this God is glorified and the gospel is truly lived out in our lives.

In Colossians 3:1-3 Paul emphasizes this same idea, he says…

1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

There is a war going on in our minds, the flesh and the spirit are battling for control, and the winner wins control over how we live, over our actions. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, we must learn to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Because we are in Christ and have died and been raised with Him, we are able to take captive every thought, to set our hearts and our minds on the things above, the things of God, and not on the things of this world and our flesh. And in this seemingly “small” action, we are truly allowing the gospel to transform our lives.

The Law of the Spirit

But we know, this is not something we are able to do on our own. It is not by our own strength and ability that we are able to live free from sin. And it is not by our own strength and ability that we are able to set our minds on the things of God in order to live for Him. So, Paul emphasizes now the law of the Spirit, which explains the role of the Spirit as we do this. Look at verses 9-11…

9   You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The NIV translation begins verse 9 saying, “you…are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.” If we are “in Christ” then we are also “in the Spirit.” The truth that Paul wants the Romans to understand is that those who have put their faith in Christ have been raised to life in Christ and received the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of God is now dwelling in them.

So then in verse 10 Paul explains that although sin is still present, so is the Spirit! And in verse 11 Paul emphasizes what that means that the Spirit of God is in them.

    • He explains that this Spirit that is dwelling in them is the same one who conquered death, raising Jesus from the dead. So in other words, the Spirit is pretty powerful, and actually, since it conquered death it has proved it’s the most powerful force in this world.
    • And that Spirit, that all powerful Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, Paul says, dwells in us….inside of those who are “in Christ.”
    • So Paul says, that means, that if the Spirit could raise Jesus to life, then it can also give life to our bodies that are otherwise dead because of sin. The Spirit in us leads us and empowers us to live in the new life we now have in Christ. In other words, if the Spirit is in us then we can live for God! We are able!
    • The Spirit enables us to live freed from sin and alive to God, to set our minds on the things of God in order to live by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 tells us,

16  “…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (NIV)

It is by the Spirit that we are able to resist our temptation towards sin and not gratify the desires of our flesh. So as we live by the Spirit and set our minds on the things of the Spirit, we are able to “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”, and therefore, submit to God’s will and please Him. Just as we were once ruled by sin and followed it’s desires, we are now to be ruled by the Spirit and follow it’s desires. This is truly how the gospel is meant to transform our lives everyday, by enabling us through the Spirit, to live for God.

And this is “the law of the Spirit of life.” That those who are in Christ have been set free from the law of sin and death and now live under the rule of the Spirit of God, who empowers us to resist sin’s temptation and enables us to instead set our minds on the things of God and live for Him, giving us life and peace. And our role in this is to offer ourselves to God to be used for righteousness and then actively resist sin’s temptation, all through the power of the Spirit in us.

So what this means for our day to day lives is that although we live in this tension between being freed from sin yet still prone to sin, we are empowered by the Spirit in us to live for God.

Example: My Sister’s Wedding

My older sister got married last month and sadly, my relationship with my sister has never been easy or enjoyable. She is four years older than me and since we were young she has never shown a desire to have a friendship with me and has treated me rather harshly. And I have struggle over the years with how to respond to her. So when she got engaged last Fall, my husband and I talked about how to support her and be loving, trying to prepare ourselves for the petty things she might say or do towards me during her engagement and wedding.

And just a month later we were faced with our first trial. We received her “Save the Date” card in the mail and there was a wedding web page on it. I am sad to say, as soon as I saw it I knew exactly what was about to happen. So I braced myself and typed in the web page, and sure enough, she had published the wedding party. Without a word to me about her decision, she had asked every single person in my family and her fiancé’s family, including boyfriends and children, to be in the wedding party, except for me. And I knew, without a doubt, it was meant to hurt me. And we all know our siblings can push our buttons and get under our skin like no one else can!

But regardless of how she had intentionally meant to hurt me, I knew that being in Christ meant responding differently in situations like this. And as Michael and I discussed how we would respond to this, the one thing that kept going through my mind was that I wanted to show her, and anyone else who might be watching, that there is a different way to live. That Christ does make a difference in our lives. But of course there was a war waging inside of me. I also wanted so badly to put her in her place, to tell her how petty and hateful she was, to tell our relatives the truth about the situation and why I wasn’t in the wedding. But that is not how Christ calls us to respond in situations like that and the Spirit was also speaking to my heart.

So we made a resolve, that no matter what, we were committed to living out God’s Word, to turning the other cheek, to loving our enemy. And we pressed on, straining to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, to not live according to our sinful desires, and to live instead in the newness of life that Christ had died to give us.

So over the next few months, when my mind started down the road of destructive and slanderous thoughts towards my sister, the Spirit of God within me gave me the strength to stop that train of thought and instead to fill my mind with God’s Word and truth, not giving sin that power over me. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead was able to give life to me so that I was able to live for God. When my thoughts were fixed on the things of God, my actions reflected that. The Spirit not only empowered me to set my mind on God, but also to actually live for God.

It wasn’t easy, but let me tell you, in the end it was so worth it. Not only were we filled with peace and joy over knowing we had done the right thing, and that we had pleased God, but a few weeks after the wedding I received the most incredible reward I could have ever asked for. My father sent Michael and I an email, saying that he had noticed how we had responded and that he felt our response is what had kept the peace in the family throughout the weekend. My family, who does not know Christ, saw Him in us, and it impacted them and truly showed them there is a different way to live. That Christ really does make a difference in our lives here on earth. God was glorified and the gospel was lived out for others to see. And that’s what it looks like to live in the newness of life that Christ gave us.

Conclusion

Have you ever experienced that in your life? A time when you knew it was through the power of the Spirit of God in you that you were able to stop sin in its tracks and set your mind and life on what pleases God? Maybe there’s an area of your life right now where you’re struggling to do that? Is there a relationship or situation in your life in which you have not set your mind on the things of the Spirit, but instead you’re focusing on the things of the flesh leading to a failure to live for God? Do you realize that since you are “in Christ” you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you to enable you to live for God instead of for your sinful desires?

This afternoon as we ask the question, “How does the gospel transform our lives day to day in light of God’s grace and our call to new life?”  The answer is that the gospel transforms our lives as we learn to live and walk by the Spirit. And we begin by setting our minds not on the things of our flesh and of our old self, but instead on the things of God. And as we do that, the Spirit will enable us to live for God, to pursue righteousness, and to live a new life in Christ.

Series Wrap-up

As we close now I just want to briefly tie together all that we have talked about this weekend. How does the gospel transform our lives each and every day?

    1. First, it tells us of God’s love for us which empowers us to live for Him, gives us peace and joy, and gives us perspective in our lives.
    2. It also tells us of our union with Christ which frees us from sin’s control over us…so that we will no longer let sin reign over us but instead live free from sin and alive to God.
    3. And it tells us that through our union with Christ we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, empowering us to set our minds on the things of God and enabling us to live for God in the new life Christ has given us.

This is the gospel. And we need it everyday. As Thomas Watson talked about in the quote we looked at last night, our lives are full of things that dull our senses making it hard for us to move towards God each day. But the gospel brings us back, it softens our hearts and reminds us of these truths that wake up our souls and help us to live for God in the everyday moments of our lives.

In last year’s blockbuster movie, “The Help”, one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is of Aibileen, the housekeeper, talking to the baby girl she takes care of, Mae Mobley. Aibileen is sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery wiht Mae Mobley in her lap facing her. And Aibileen slowly says to her, in her sweet southern accent, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” And then she repeats it as Mae Mobley says it with her. And the reason Aibileen does this is because this little girl is very neglected and mistreated by her mom, so everything that matters in Mae Mobley’s life is telling her the exact opposite. If she listened to the voice of her mother she would believe that she is stupid and worthless. But this is not the truth, so to counter the lies she is bombarded with, Aibileen repeats this to her everyday so that no matter what the world may tell her, she will always have that truth planted deep within her.

And that is what I hope for each of you. That the truth of the Gospel, which we have been reminded of this weekend, will be planted deep in your hearts. That you would remember it each and everyday. Living in this fallen world where you do still battle your sin and flesh, you will be tempted to believe that God does’t love you, that you aren’t free from sin’s control over you, that no matter how hard you try you can’t live for God. This is why you must continue to remind yourself of the gospel everyday. Because no matter what the world tells you, the gospel will continue to tell you the truth…You are loved. You are free. And you are able.

Questions for Personal Reflection:

  • Is there a current situation or relationship in which you are dwelling on the things of the flesh?
  • In this situation/relationship (and others), how can you “set your mind on the things of the Spirit” instead of the things of the flesh? What spiritual disciplines help us to do this?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:15-17. What does it mean to “regard no one according to the flesh”? (ESV) Based on what we talked about this weekend, what does it mean that you are a new creation?
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Freed from Sin

Translating the Gospel to Our Lives

Part 2: Freed from Sin

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Click Here for the handout that goes along with this message

Last night we began our time together by looking at a quote by Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher from the 1600’s. And in this quote he talked about how as we go about our day to day activities, there are things in our lives that get in the way of our communion with God, causing us to, as he said, “forget God and our souls.” Our hearts become hardened and we struggle to move towards God. And then we talked about how the gospel is what brings us back to Him, causing our hearts to melt, reminding us of what God has done for us and therefore what that means in our lives, so that we are then able to move towards God once again.

And then we considered the subject of living out the gospel in our lives and what that means. If the gospel is the message of God reconciling us to Himself through the sacrifice of His son, doing for us what we were unable to do for ourselves, so that we could be made righteous…then, what does it mean for that message, for the gospel, to transform our lives? How does the gospel speak to our day to day lives? And those questions are what we are addressing this weekend.

Last night, we looked at one way in which the message of the gospel is meant to transform our lives….by reminding us of God’s love for us. That His love for us is the same today as it was the day He sent His son to die for us. That nothing, not even our own failures, can keep God from loving us fully. And that when we understand and grasp God’s love for us it empowers us and gives us perspective, changing the way we live.

And now, today, we are going to talk about two more ways that the gospel speaks to our day to day lives, both stemming from our “union with Christ.” First, this morning we will talk about how through our union with Christ we are freed from sin. And then this afternoon we will look at how through our union with Christ we are also freed to live for God. We’re gonna be in Romans again, this time chapter 6. So go ahead and turn there if you would like to use your Bible, or you can follow along on the handout.

“In Christ”

Just a little bit of context before we begin. Last night we looked at a passage in chapter 5 which spoke about how while we were still sinners God sent Christ to die for us, reconciling us to Him. The rest of the chapter, which we did not look at last night, talks about how all of mankind is considered “in Adam.” Adam was responsible for ushering in sin and death to the human race, so now all who come after him, all of mankind, is also going to face the same fate as Adam. So before Christ, our old status was “in Adam.”

But, then Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 5:17 (at the top of your handout)….

17 “…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man [so through Adam and his trespass death reigns], how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness, reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

So just as sin and death entered the human race through one man, Adam, so now grace and righteousness have entered through one man, Jesus Christ. So those who receive God’s gift of grace and righteousness will no longer be considered “in Adam” but instead are seen as being “in Christ.”

And then, Paul also explains at the end of chapter 5 that while we were “in Adam” we were under the law which magnified our sin showing how powerless over it we were on our own. But now that we are “in Christ” we live under God’s gift of grace which leads to righteousness and eternal life. So entering into chapter 6, Paul’s now going to unfold what that means that we are now considered “in Christ,” what does that look like in our day to day lives?

Paul’s “Theory”

So Paul is going to break this down for us, but I must confess, he doesn’t break it down very easily for us. Chapter 6 is a very hard passage to understand, like a lot of Romans is. Paul uses complex language and ideas, and the way he structures his explantation isn’t easy to follow. So as I walk us through this passage I am going to attempt to break it down even more for us to help us understand it more easily. As you’ll see on the handout.

If you can remember back to elementary school science class, they taught us the scientific method which you used to test a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a “proposed explanation for a phenomenon” (wiki). So, you start with a hypothesis, then you prove it through observations and experiments. Then once you have verified your hypothesis, it becomes theory. Well, as I studied this passage I began to see a similar structure in Paul’s explanation of what it means to be “in Christ.” The way Paul explains this phenomenon in the Christian life, is very similar to how one would explain a scientific theory using their observations as proof. So that’s kind of how I want us to see his explanation of our union with Christ in order to help us understand it a little better. I hope that makes sense!

So if you look at the handout, the first section on your handout is titled “Died with Christ, Raised with Christ”, verses 1-5, and this is what I’m calling Paul’s “theory”. Then the next section is the proof, verses 6-11, which I’ve broken into two observations, number 1 and 2. And then following that, in verses 12-14, Paul makes a proposition based on his theory, which I have titled “Living Freed from Sin.” So, he basically says, therefore, if what I just said is true, if his theory is true, then this must be true as well…and he touches on how to respond to his explanation of what it means to be “in Christ.” Make sense so far? I think it will make more sense as we go through it and hopefully, this will help all of us understand what he’s saying a little better.

Died with Christ, Raised with Christ

Ok, so let’s get started. Look at verses 1-5, this is Paul’s theory to explain what it means to be “in Christ”…

6:1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus [by this he is referring to when they put their faith in Christ] were baptized into his death?  4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5   For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

So this is Paul’s theory, that because we put our faith in Christ, we have died and been raised with Him. As verse 5 says, we are united with him in his death and united with him in his resurrection. This is what we call “union with Christ.” So, therefore, Paul says, because we are united with Christ, we no longer have to live in sin, but instead, we are able to “walk in the newness of life” – or- as the NIV puts it, we can “live a new life.”  So, he’s saying, through our union with Christ, we are freed from sin in order to live a new life.

If Paul’s theory has come in response to a question, then basically the question he’s answering is the same question that we’re asking today, which is: How do we live out the gospel in our lives in light of our union with Christ? How does being “in Christ” transform our lives day to day?

Now, we might be tempted to kind of gloss over what Paul is saying because we’ve heard it before….like last night when we talked about God’s love for us. But, just like last night, we’ve got to fight that. Because what Paul is explaining here is, how to live out the gospel in our lives. If we long to be transformed by the gospel, then we need to understand what he’s saying here about our spiritual standing, which is what enables us to live out the gospel.

Last night we read in Romans 5 that before we were “in Christ” we were “powerless, ungodly, sinners, enemies of God.” We had no hope. But now, not only has Christ done what we were unable to do, but through faith we are included in what He did. We too die to sin and to death, and now are raised to life. Romans 5:1 tells us that…

5:1   “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

You see, this is our new spiritual status, we are now at peace with God “in Christ”, we are no longer His enemy “in Adam.” This is our status in Christ regardless of what our lives look like. Really think about that and let it sink in. If you have put your faith in Christ then this is the spiritual reality you now live in. For some, this might be very hard to comprehend. Because, its hard to imagine that our spiritual status could be reversed without us doing a thing but put our faith in Christ and what He did. But that is the truth of the gospel, that’s why it’s called good news! Jesus did what we could not do, so that in Him we could now have a relationship with God.

So, now that Paul has laid out his theory for us, that we have died and been raised with Christ in order that we no longer have to live in sin but can walk in the newness of life, he’s going to move on to show the proof of this. He’s going to help us to understand why this must be true. Look at verses 6 and 7…

1. Died with Christ: Freed from Sin (verses 6-7):

6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Paul begins his observation in verse 6, by describing what dies when we die with Christ…

    • First he says our “old self” is crucified. What is our old self? What is Paul referring to here? Well, it’s what he just talked about…It’s who we were when we were “in Adam.” Remember, chapter 5 described this, we were sinners, ungodly, unable to uphold the law, enemies of God. So what Paul is explaining is that when we die with Christ our old status dies as well. When we die with Christ, before God we are no longer helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies of God.
    • Then he says, our old self dies in order that “our body of sin” is brought to nothing. Another translation I like to look at is the New English Translation (NET), and it says that our old self dies “so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us.” This statement is truly amazing. It’s a game changer. What it’s telling us is not that we are now without sin, but that now the sin nature that controlled us and dominated us, no longer has that power over us.
    • Try to picture that. On the cross, not only did our spiritual status “in Adam” get crucified, but also sin’s rule over our physical bodies was broken. Christ defeated sin’s rule over our bodies, as Paul says here in the end of verse 6, “so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

And then in verse 7, Paul simply says, if we have died to sin with Christ, then we have been set free from sin. It no longer rules over us so we are no longer obligated to do what it says.

Imagine what this means for you in your life. Think of your “old self” “in Adam” and think of how that is manifested in your life. Perhaps you came to Christ a little later in life and you can actually remember what you were like apart from Christ. Or maybe you simply see it now in the sins you are most prone to, most tempted to? Who are you when you give in to sin’s temptations?

Example: My “old self”

I became a believer when I was 14 and had been raised in a good, but worldly and non-Christian home. So not only did I have a big conversion when I came to the faith, but I have also spent the years since recognizing all the ways that a non-Christ-centered childhood have affected me. When I picture myself without Christ of course I picture the things I did, outwardly, like drinking, smoking, shoplifting, skipping school, I was quite a rebel….but even more, I picture my heart before Christ, my desire to be better than others, to get my way, to put myself first. I picture the cruel and malicious thoughts I had towards people and how tearing others down made me feel better about myself. I remember what it was like to feel hopeless and alone, and to think that life was about what you achieved and acquired. And these are still the sins I am prone to, these are still the sins that tempt me. But they are also my “old self,” what I was in bondage to before Christ.

So think about this in your life. Picture this in your mind, close your eyes if that helps. If you remember yourself before Christ, what were you like? Or think of yourself today, when you are at your worst, living in selfishness and sin, what does that look like?

    • Do you seek to destroy others through slander and gossip? Do you find joy when others fail or face misfortune?
    • Do you covet what others have and resent God for what He has or hasn’t given you?
    • Do you strive to be accepted by others? Do you make possessions and appearance a priority in your life? Is your identity grounded in worldly things?
    • Do you water down your faith in order to be more comfortable in this world and to not stand out?

The list goes on and on…. Now picture that person who you are without Christ, your old self, your sin nature, being nailed to the cross, and dying with Christ. The truth is, when you were united with Christ through faith, that is what happened. Your body of sin, your old self, it’s control over you, died with Christ. And the result is that you are no longer enslaved by your old self and sin. Your body of sin was rendered powerless, it no longer controls you or dominates you. You no longer have to give in and do what it says, you have been set free from sin’s control over you.

2. Raised with Christ: Alive to God (verses 8-11):

The second half of Paul’s proof that he emphasizes next is that not only do we die, but we also live. He says, starting in verse 8…

8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul makes a very interesting observation here to prove his point. He explains that if Christ died and was raised from the dead, then it means he can’t go back and die again. Why? Because, it says, he mastered death, so that means, death can no longer master him. So when He died to sin it was complete and final, so that now, He lives for God. If He can’t be dead, then he must be alive, there’s no other option, right?!. Does that make sense?

So then in verse 11, Paul explains that if we have also died with Christ and been raised with Christ, then the same is true for us. He says we must consider ourselves in the same light, “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This means that in Christ, we too have mastered sin and death, and just as Christ can’t go back, neither can we. That “old self” that died on the cross with Christ can never come back to life. So, just like Christ, we must live! In Christ, we have died to sin once for all, it can never again have dominion over us. And therefore, we now live lives for God. As Paul says, we are alive to God.

So just to summarize this so far.

  • First, Paul explains that along with Christ we have died to sin and it no longer has control over us.
  • Then he adds that that death was final. So no matter what, sin can no longer be our master again, it can no longer control and dominate us. Which means, our new status of being “alive to God in Christ Jesus” is also final. Nothing can change that. Just like Christ, the life we now live we live for God.

So these are Paul’s two “proofs” he offers to show us that “in Christ” we have died and been raised with Christ so we no longer have to live in sin, but instead, we are able to live a new life.

Living Freed from Sin

Now the problem for us as we hear this, is that those sins that represent our “old self” are still the sins we struggle with today, “in Christ.” So if our “old self” was nailed to the cross, and died with Christ, and can no longer master us, then why do we still sin? Why does it not feel as if we are freed from sin’s control over us? This is what Paul is about to explain. And if you remember the new way I offered for us to view this passage, this section would be his final proposition. Basically he is saying, if what I said is true, then this must follow. Look at verse 12-14, he says….

 6:12   Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Example: Abort mission!

When I was just out of college a friend of mine was starting her career in Dallas working for a large firm. And of course, there were lots of good looking men around her to develop crushes on. And eventually she developed a rather large crush on one guy she worked with who was a few years older than her. And as all girls do, during the work day she would find herself taking bathroom breaks so that she might run into him, maybe taking the long way back to her desk so she could walk by his, and sitting at her desk day dreaming about him instead of working. So we started a little email exchange during the work day to help her stay focused and keep her heart grounded. Basically anytime she started to day dream or make a plan to do a walk about to see him, she would shoot an email to me telling me what was going through her head. And then, all I would do was respond with two words: Abort Mission!!! And that’s really all she needed to wake her up and get her back on track.

In a sense, that is what Paul is saying here to the Romans. He’s saying, abort mission! Do not carry out these wrong desires, do not do what you are no longer obligated to do. Like a child Paul is saying to them, sin is not the boss of you so you don’t have to do what it says! When you sense your old self making a comeback, recognize this and abort mission, turn and run. Here Paul explains to them the two ways in which they act as if sin is still their master.

      1. First, in verse 12, he says, Do not let sin reign, or dominate, you anymore, so that you live in it’s ways and obey it. – The key word here is “let.” Paul is saying, you have been freed from sin, so when you do what sin says, you are “letting” it dominate you! The truth is, once we are in Christ, when we continue to live in sin, when we continue to obey sin’s passions, we are choosing to live under it’s rule instead of living in our new status as freed from sin in Christ.
      2. Secondly, in verse 13, he says, Do not present, or offer, your self as an instrument of unrighteousness, or sin. – So in verse 12 he commanded them to not continue to live as if sin still ruled over them, and now in verse 13 he also tells them to not return to their sin. Sin is no longer your master so don’t return to it.

So why do we still sin? Why does it not feel as if we are freed from sin’s control over us? Paul says it’s because we do not live as if we are free, instead we let sin continue to rule over us and we return to it, giving ourselves to it.

Example: Kutty in India (IJM Newsletter, Spring 2012)

Recently I received a quarterly update from the ministry of IJM, International Justice Mission, which if you’re not familiar with, is one of the world’s largest agencies fighting slavery in the world today. In this newsletter it tells the story of a man in India named Kutty who had been enslaved in a rice mill along with his wife and 4 children. He talks about what it was like to be a slave…how even when they were sick they had to work, and how they were never allowed to return to their village to visit their friends and family. Their owner truly ruled over them so that they had to do whatever he said, they belonged to him.

But in 2008, Kutty and his family were rescued from slavery. IJM partnered with the local government to set him free. So, he was legally and officially set free from his owner’s rule over him. So the story goes on to talk about how he returned to life as a free man, he secured a good job, and he even ran for public office so he could fight injustice and help others have a better life as well.

But, I want you to imagine how you would have responded, if after this great story of a man being freed from slavery, instead of telling you that he went on to live as a freed man, what if I told you that even though he was free he chose to return to his previous master, offering himself to him as if he still owned him? What if I told you that despite his legal status as a free man, he chose to live like a slave, oppressed and abused? What would you say to him if you had a chance to talk face to face with him after hearing that?

This is exactly what Paul is addressing with the Romans, and that is exactly what many of us do. We live like we are still slaves, we return to our sin nature as if it still has dominion over us. But as Paul explained, we are legally free from sin’s rule over us. In Christ, we are dead to sin, it is no longer our master. And no matter what, it can never rule over us again. Just as it would be absurd for a man like Kutty to continue to live as a slave, it’s absurd for us to continue living as if we are still slaves to sin. Just as Kutty was freed in order to live a new life, so are we. We have been freed so that we can now live for God in Christ. So Paul says, do not act like a slave anymore and do not return to slavery! But instead, live for God, offer yourselves to Him.

In the second half of verse 13, Paul says…

    • Present yourself to God as one who is alive from the dead, as one who is free. In other words, live like a free person because you are a free person! You were once dead, but now you are alive!
    • And then he says, instead of offering yourself to sin, offer yourself to God to be used for righteousness.

Then in verse 14, Paul tells them, sin is no longer your master, it no longer has dominion over you, because you are no longer under law, but under grace.

  • This is a fact. Whether Kutty lived like it or not, the fact was he was a free man. And this is the same reality that we have in Christ, whether we live like it or not.
  • Christ has redeemed the law, so we now live under the “rules” of grace and not of sin. We are now able to live for God, because of His gift of grace, offering ourselves to Him to be used for righteousness.

Galatians 5:1 is one of my favorite verses because it reminds us of this beautiful reality in our lives…

5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

Kutty’s story is a picture for us of what this looks like. He was set free, and so he chose to live in his freedom, to stand firm. He did not allow himself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, but instead he chose to live as a free man, reflecting what had been done for him. Are you living a life that reflects the freedom you have in Christ? Do you live in a way that others would recognize that “in Christ” you have been freed from the bondage of sin?

Conclusion

As we end this morning, I want us to return to our original question that we’re asking this weekend, How does the gospel speak to our lives today? And so this morning, How do we live out the gospel in our lives in light of our union with Christ and our freedom from sin? How does being freed from sin transform our lives day to day?

It means not just understanding our new standing “in Christ,” but also living in that truth. Christ didn’t die for us to give us good theology, He died for us to change our lives. He died to free us from the control of sin so that we would live a new life here on earth. And as Paul says, that involves us making active choices to not live like a slave. Choosing to not return to slavery.

    • Right now, in your day to day life, would you say you are living freed from the control of sin?
    • Or have you returned to sin as if you are still in bondage?
    • Do you claim each day the freedom you have in Christ so that you might “walk in the newness of life”?

We are freed in Christ, and part of that freedom is being able to say no to sin because of the grace of God in our lives. And the other part is being free to say yes to God, which is what we are going to be talking about this afternoon.

Questions for Group Discussion & Personal Reflection:

    • What does our “old self” before Christ look like, generally and specifically? Now think about your “old self” and list or describe that person. Go through this list and recognize that God has freed you from the control of each one.
    • Why do we return to sin after we have been freed from it? Why is sin still attractive to us?
    • Looking at the list you just made, which sins do you struggle most to live free of? What are the sins that you tend to return to and why?
    • Discuss what it looks like, day to day, to live freed from sin. How can we keep ourselves from letting sin continue to rule over us or from returning to sin?
    • Using one or two of these examples in your own life, in those areas how can you offer yourself to God instead, to be used for righteousness?

God’s Love for Us

Translating the Gospel to Our Lives

Part 1: God’s Love for Us

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Click Here for the handout that goes along with this message

Recently in the women’s Bible Study at my church we were studying the Sabbath. And a quote was shared with us that really struck a cord in my heart. And as I read and re-read it, I felt it really spoke to what God had been putting on my heart for us this weekend. The quote is by Thomas Watson, who was a puritan preacher and author in the 1600’s, and he was explaining why God gave us the Sabbath. While we’re not talking about the Sabbath here, I want us to hear what’s behind what he’s saying…what it says about the struggle we face spiritually in this world. So if you can, while I read it, try to hear what’s at the heart of what he’s saying… (on the handout)

Thomas Watson quote: 

“The Sabbath-day is for our interest; it promotes holiness in us. The business of week-days makes us forgetful of God and our souls; the Sabbath brings him back to our remembrance. When the falling dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections…The heart which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word.” (The Ten Commandments)

Isn’t that a great quote? Written in the 1600‘s but every bit as relevant to us today. Here Watson is talking about the tension between being spiritual but living in an unspiritual world, and how that affects us. He says our day to day lives “make us forgetful of God and our souls” and then he goes on to give us a picture of what that looks like. He says its like when dust clogs the wheels of a machine and so it fails to move as well as it was meant to, it fails to carry out it’s purpose with ease. And he offers a second picture of our hearts becoming frozen, or hardened, during our daily routines and tasks which he calls the “business of week days”.

As we think about this I want you to think about your life, what is the dust of the world that “clogs the wheels of your affections”? What makes it hard for you to move towards God? What about your life hardens your heart towards what is holy and spiritual? Perhaps you are a….

    • Student, and it’s the demands of deadlines and the secular teaching and philosophies that you’re faced with day in and day out.
    • Or maybe as a working woman it’s having to wake early each day to rush to be at a job that fills the majority of your day and exhausts you, leaving hardly any time or energy to spend with the Lord. Interacting with all sorts of co-workers and belief systems, maybe even dealing with people who are outwardly skeptical or aggressive towards Christians.
    • Maybe you’re raising children and the falling dust are your duties in raising kids and keeping your home organized, you get a rare moment to yourself and when you do your mind is full of lists and worry over the balls that might get dropped…or perhaps blank because you are so tired!
    • Maybe you’re an empty-nester and your life has become full with caring for your parents, travel, grandkids, volunteering, and simply trying to establish a new normal.
    • Perhaps the things that distract you from God are difficult relationships, a desire to be married or to have kids, a difficult marriage, struggling finances…or even just TV shows and movies. The list goes on and on.
    • Whatever it is, and whatever your life is like we all share this common struggle. We are busy, distracted, overwhelmed, and dulled by the stuff around us. We long for depth, intimacy, and purpose. But we are haunted by our failures and our inadequacies. We are in need of energy and silence. And all of this “dust” threatens us every single day making us “forgetful of God and our souls.” And making it difficult for us to “move towards God.”

But here, Watson says God has given us the Sabbath to help us remember God and our souls, oiling the wheels that get clogged with dust during the week so we are able to move towards God, melting our hearts. So, the question we need to ask here is:

    • What is it about the Sabbath that brings us back, that helps us to remember? What happens on the Sabbath to oil the wheels of our affections and melt our hearts?
    • The answer is very simple. On Sunday we are ushered to the foot of the cross through which we are meant to view our lives. We are reminded of what God has done for us and therefore what that means in our lives. God’s Word and Spirit does what we can’t do on our own, it oils the “wheels of our affections” with the gospel, giving us clarity and perspective. It melts our hearts, re-focusing us on the gospel, on God’s grace, and on what that means in our lives.

And the truth is, we don’t just need that on the Sabbath, we need that every moment of every day! The gospel is not meant to be a one time story that explains where we go when we die or our spiritual standing on earth. It is also meant to be applied to every situation of our lives. To transform every aspect of our lives….all of those day to day things I just mentioned. So tonight and tomorrow, this is what we are going to do, we are going to “remember” what God has done for us and what that means in our lives everyday. We are going to talk about how the gospel should transform our lives, helping us each day to move towards God.

The Gospel

I put some scripture references on your handout where the gospel is briefly summarized. But, we all know basically what the gospel is. If someone asked you what the gospel was, you might say something like. We are all sinners who have turned away from God so we are unable to uphold the law or do anything about our separation from God. No one can be declared righteous and we will all be held accountable to God. So God sent His son to be our sacrifice of atonement so that we could be made righteous. Jesus did what we were unable to do for ourselves so that we could now have a relationship with God, gain eternal life, and live our lives for Him. And all this is a free gift to those who put their faith in Christ.

That is a condensed version of the gospel, the good news of the revelation of Jesus as our savior. But when we talk about living out the gospel in our lives, what exactly does that mean? What does it mean for the gospel, for that message, to transform our lives? How does the gospel speak to our day to day lives? These are the questions  that we’re going to be addressing this weekend and we are going to look at three ways the gospel is meant to transform our lives.

God’s Love for us

So, we are going to start tonight by looking at our first point, what the gospel tells us about God’s disposition towards us and how that is meant to transform our daily lives. I’m going to read for us three verses that refer to the gospel. But these verses go beyond the condensed version of the gospel I just gave us, and they address where God was coming from when He sent His son. They basically answer the question, Why did God save us? (on the handout)

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

Eph. 1:4-5 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (NIV)

Eph. 2:4-5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (ESV)

Why did God save us? So often we get caught up in complex doctrine and theology, and we lose sight of this most important and foundational truth that we see in these three passages: Christ died for us because of God’s love for us. The gospel teaches us not only about our own state and sinfulness, but even more about God’s love towards us. I think one of the reasons we struggle to understand what it means to live a gospel centered life is because we tend to look past God’s love for us as if it’s not that big of a deal.

Example: “God is Love”

After I had been a believer for about 10 years my father heard the gospel and put his faith in Christ, he was in his late 50’s. At some point that next year he bought a little wooden plaque for myself and my two siblings that simply said “God is Love”. And I remember thinking, “oh that’s sweet, he’s new to the faith and that’s what you do at first is talk all about God’s love, but eventually he’ll understand the deeper truths and theology as I do.” Can you believe I’m admitting this? But it’s true, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, especially in our reformed circles. We see “God Loves You” on a church marquee and roll our eyes and think about how simple they must be and much more theologically sharp we are.

But the truth is, the joke’s on those who think this way, because If we are called now to live our lives in the light of the Gospel, then the first thing we must do is learn to live our lives daily in light of God’s incredible and unfailing love for us.

Living in Light of God’s Love

So what does that look like to live in light of God’s love for us? Sounds like something that is easier said than done, so let’s talk about what it looks like. We are going to be in Romans a lot this weekend so go ahead and open up your Bibles to Romans chapter 5 or follow along on the handout.

1. God’s love is the same everyday – Romans 5:6-11

5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (NIV)

Looking at this passage, how does Paul describe us here before Christ died for us? Look at the passage, what descriptions of us do you see here?

      • First in verse 6 it says we were powerless. Or if you have the ESV, it says weak and another translation, the NASB, says helpless. The point being, we could do nothing to save ourselves, we were unable to live for God.
      • Verse 6 also says we were ungodly
      • And verse 8, that we were sinners
      • And then in verse 10, Paul says we were enemies of God

Think about this description. Do you relate with it? Have you ever felt the depth of your sin and your helplessness in it? Can you remember a time when you acted as an enemy of God or that you would describe as ungodly? I’m afraid that if I answered those questions right now for y’all no one may show up tomorrow morning. The fact is, we all relate with this. We know this description is true.

The point that Paul is trying to make here is that apart from the grace of God, before Christ, we were utterly and completely worthless and hideous. We did nothing to deserve or earn God’s love, attention, forgiveness, sacrifice, or grace. In fact, he says we did the opposite, instead we acted as enemies of God.

But verse 8 tells us that while we were in that pitiful state, Christ died for us. As hideous as we were, God still loved us, and He showed us His love for us by sending His son to die for us. And Paul explains that Christ’s death was a demonstration of God’s love for us. Think about that word “demonstration.” When we look at the cross we see this great love demonstrated for us….but that wasn’t the end of it, it is ongoing, God has that same love for us today. That means His love for us isn’t confined to the cross – God’s love for us is abiding, always there, given freely to us. The same love that sent Christ to the cross to save us is the same love God has for us every single day. Think about that. Let it sink in. Imagine how changed we would be if we woke up each morning basking in the beauty of that truth. It would be life altering.

2. Nothing can separate us from God’s love

But there is something, for most of us, that gets in the way of us living in this reality of God’s incredible love for us. Let me illustrate this with a recent example from my life.

Example: A Mother’s love

When Michael and I began announcing to our friends and family that we were pregnant there was one response that we heard over and over, especially from friends who had also had babies recently. They would say, “You’re not going to believe how much you will love your child!” I have to admit that I was a little annoyed after awhile because my response in my head was, “Well, duh, she will be my child so of course I will love her.” But of course, they were right, could there be any stronger love than the love of a mother for her child? And that love just continues to grow, it really is crazy and now I understand why people kept saying that.

But, I also have to admit that this love I have for my child isn’t perfect. Probably about a month or two ago Michael and I were talking about how much we loved Maggie and I laughed and told him honestly that despite this love I felt, I had to admit that it might be a little conditional….that if she weren’t so cute, and such a good sleeper, and such a good eater, if she didn’t smile so much, that I wasn’t sure I would love her so much! There have been many moments in the past 5 months when my love for her turned on a dime when she wasn’t doing what I wanted her to do. And in those moments I had a very hard time feeling or showing my pleasure and love for her….but the second she shaped up and did what I wanted her to do, I was pleased again and easily showed my love for her.

The truth is, none of us have ever loved another person perfectly. We have all had times when we struggled to love someone because of a way they had failed us or disappointed us. And because of this, the obstacle we face stems from the fact that God’s love for us is very different than the human love we know.

Often we understand that God loved us enough to save us but then, and perhaps because it’s so ingrained in us, we think that now, on this side of the cross, we might lose His love when we’re not living as He calls us to….as if God loves us less at times based on our failure to live up to His Word. Or as if the pleasure He felt to save us is diminished as He sees us fail to live for Christ and maybe He might even regret choosing us and saving us. Perhaps subconsciously, we believe we have to earn His love by living for Him and being good Christians. So many of us walk around with this guilty, condemned feeling because the truth is we do fail, often, and we will continue to fail.

But Paul’s message to us in the passage we just looked at in Romans 5 says something very different. Think of one of the worst moments of your life, when you were at your worst, hideous and truly sinful. Romans 5 tells us that that person, and so much worse, is the person who God loved enough to send His own son to die for. His love is so big that He can love the worst and most despicable soul. His love for us is so great and unfailing that He can love us utterly deprived, apart from Christ, at our worst. Can you grasp that?

This means that there are no failures in your life that can ever change that. None. God still loved David after he had Bathsheba’s husband killed! He loves you just as much the moment before you mess up as He does the moment after you mess up. He isn’t sitting up in heaven shaking His head at your failures and poor decisions, regretting what He did for you. His love isn’t like ours. His love is unfailing. Which means even in light of your continued sin His love for you doesn’t waver or change.

Look at Romans 8 starting in verse 35. Obviously the people in the church in Rome were struggling with the same thoughts, because as I said, it’s only human that we struggle with this. So Paul says to them….

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… verse 38 I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As Paul says here, there is nothing that can separate you from God’s love for you! There is nothing that can change or diminish God’s love for you. This truth is meant to transform the way we live. If we understand and truly believe that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us, then imagine the joy and peace we would have each day, imagine how our hearts would melt in light of this unbelievable truth, imagine how it would promote holiness in us. Our last point tonight will speak to this…

3. God’s love empowers us & gives us perspective

Look at Ephesians 3:17-19. Speaking to the believers in the church in Ephesus, Paul says…

“17 I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV)

Paul says in this passage that if we would know God’s love fully, if we really understand how much God loved us and how unfailing that love is, then we would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” That means that when we know God’s love, when we grasp how big it is, we are filled with the fullness of God. We are filled with all He has promised us, with all the blessings of Christ that are ours. What Paul is saying is that when we understand God’s love for us and live in light of that reality, we are changed, we are transformed.

Can you remember times in your life when you grasped His love for you? A time when after encountering God you felt full, content, overjoyed, at peace, weak yet strong? There are so many times in my Christian walk when I have felt this, and it is humbling yet exhilarating all at the same time. And knowing that love that “surpasses knowledge” gave me the strength and perspective I needed at that time in my life. That’s what Paul is talking about here. And that is also what Paul was talking about in Romans 8:37 when he said,

37 …we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The literal translation of this verse is, “we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  When we grasp how big God’s love for us is, when we “know” it as Paul says here, then we are filled with the fullness of God and we overwhelmingly conquer all things in our lives. God’s love empowers us and gives us a clear perspective on our lives.

Example: Hinds Feet on High Places

One of my favorite books to read every year is Hannah Hurnard’s Hind’s Feet on High Places. It’s an allegory about a girl named “Much-Afraid” who becomes a believer and she begins her “journey” with the Shepherd. The picture given is one of climbing a mountain and her Christian life is represented by the valley’s, plains, and cliffs she comes across. One of the things I love about this picture is that she is always challenged to continue viewing her journey in the light of the Shepherd who loves her and wouldn’t harm her, no matter what comes her way. And when she doubts His love for her she slips, falls, and loses her way. But, when she remembers His love for her and reflects on it, it gives her the strength she needs to keep going and the perspective she needs for the journey.

Whenever I have friend struggling with an unwanted situation in their life…perhaps a breakup, or infertility, or an illness, the one thing I always come back to to encourage them is this. That no matter what they are facing, one thing remains the same, they can trust always in God’s love in their life, even when they can’t “feel” it. In Psalm 23 David reminds himself of this during a time that he describes as “walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” He says despite this circumstance in his life he will have no fear because….

6 “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (NAS)

The essence of the Hebrew word here for lovingkindness, is steadfast love. Steadfast means, resolutely firm and unwavering. God’s love for you is steadfast, firm, and unwavering…it will always be there, pursing you the rest of your life. Can you think of anything better than to know that as you go through every day of your life the goodness and love of God will be with you forever, no matter what your circumstances may be?

Conclusion

In close, let’s return to the question that we’re asking tonight. What does it mean to live out the gospel in our lives in light of God’s love for us? What does it mean for the love of God to transform our lives?

    • It means grasping and understanding God’s love for us…that love that saved us while we were apart from Christ, that pursues us and will never leave us throughout our lives.
    • It means learning to live in light of that truth every day. Dwelling on and being in awe of His love for us and not moving on from it. Keeping the gospel at the forefront everyday.
    • It means no longer walking in guilt or shame, feeling like God loves us less when we fail or regrets saving us, but instead walking in the joy and peace that comes when we realize that there is nothing we can do or not do to change God’s love for us.
    • It means allowing God’s love to fill us with His fullness, to strengthen us in Him, and to change how we view our lives, so that each day we view our lives through the lenses of a shepherd who loves us and will never leave us…preventing our hearts from becoming hardened.

Tonight as you get into bed I want you to think about this, let it be your last thought as you drift off to sleep. Think about God’s love for you personally. Despite your sin and selfishness, despite the ways you feel you have failed, think about how He loves you as much today as He did the day He sent His son to die for you. Think about the fact that His love for you will never fade, that it will follow you all the days of your life. And let those truths begin to oil the wheels of your affections, melting your hearts, reminding you of God and your soul, drawing you back to Him.

Questions for Group Discussion and Personal Application:

    • Remembering the Thomas Watson quote we looked at, what is the “falling dust” of your life? What threatens to harden your heart and make you forget God and your soul? What in your day to day life makes it hard to move towards God?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how loved by God do you feel in your life right now? Why? What is it that makes you feel most/least loved by God?
    • What are some of the ways you struggle to really understand and receive God’s love for you? When do you feel God’s love for you diminishes? Confess that to God and ask Him to help you know how big His love is for you everyday.
    • Read back through the passages we looked at in session 1. As you do this, respond through journaling or prayer, sharing with God how those verses make you feel.

Romans 12 by Keeley Chorn

The Following Study and Audio are by Keeley Chorn, Young Women’s Bible Study. Press play on the player below to listen to this message. Or to download to your computer – On a PC right-click “download audio” and select “Save As Target.” On a Mac Ctrl+click “download audio” and choose “Download linked file as.”

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Discerning Good and Evil: Read Rom 12:9-21

Where we’ve been in this 6 weeks of Romans: In Chs. 1-11, Paul was laying out his theology, such as the gospel of God’s grace for sinners, union with Christ and its benefits (i.e. adoption, justification, sanctification, glorification, and election).

Where Paul has gone in Chs. 12-16: transitioned from major theology and now he is giving practical advice or exhortations on how to live as Christians.  He gives discrete units of thought and instruction, but they must be seen within the larger context of both his theology and his practical advice.

The ESV calls this section “Marks of the True Christian,” meaning these are characteristics that should be evident in the life of a believer.  They are instructions for every believer.  Some people will be better at these than others, the more we mature, the more we will see evidence of them all, but these are marks that all Christians should have or should be attaining to.  We also know that this section is about good and evil because the book end verses of this section (12:9-21) are about good and evil.  Verse 12: “abhor/hate what is evil, cling to what is good;” verse 21: “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

What are some popular or cultural ideas of good and evil?

Illustration

The popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy presents a view of good and evil in its season finale last week.  The show begins with a man coming into the hospital looking for the chief of surgery, Dr. Derek Shepherd.  He is looking and asking for Derek, but as people are too busy to help him, he gets frustrated and angry.  At one point when a doctor blows off his request for help, the man pulls out a gun and shoots her in the head.  Next he shoots another man just for walking in.  We begin to see that this man is a killer on the loose with a mission and his purposes are definitely evil.  From earlier in the season, we begin to remember that this man’s wife was declared legally brain dead, and per her advanced directive, she was not to be kept on life support.  Derek and the hospital executed her orders and took her off life support.  The man, however, was not ready to see his wife die, and so he saw Derek as killing her.  He tried legally suing Derek and the hospital after her death, but it was unsuccessful.  So now, he enters the hospital, clearly seeking revenge for his wife’s death.  He is seeking justice and revenge for his wife’s death, and he is set on finding Derek Shepherd to exact his revenge.

Finally, the man finds Derek, and there is a showdown on a walkway.  The man is pointing the gun at Derek, but he is shaking and clearly upset about his wife’s death.  You can see his pain, but he is intent on killing.  Derek, in a plea to save his life, says to the man, “You want justice—you want someone to pay…you’re a good man—I can see it in your eyes, can you see it in mine?”  Derek appeals to the goodness in the man, trying to overcome the evil in him by appealing to what is good.  This is an example of what the culture says is the difference in good and evil: how we choose one or the other, but that both reside in us and we have to choose which one to follow.  We try to “well up” the good to overcome the evil.

Already, we can see a difference in this account and the biblical account.  God’s people are not innately good- we’ve been studying this: Rom 3:12 “All have turned aside, there is none who does good, not even one.”- Only through God’s spirit and being reborn can we become capable of doing good.

The Biblical view of discerning good and evil

Go to the passageto see what the biblical view of good and evil is.

Verse 9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Paul starts with love.  “Love must be sincere.” Love is a key component of discerning good from evil.  The NASB translation says, “love must be without hypocrisy;” and the ESV: “let love be genuine.” This love is not the same as an emotional feeling you get when you’re around someone you like or are attracted to.  This is a deeper, more genuine, more godly form of love.  In the context of Romans, we see that in the next chapter (Rom 13:8), Paul says “to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” verse 10 says, “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Also, in 1 Tim 1:5, we see that  “love [comes] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” So, faith is an integral component of godly, biblical love. Only a renewed/reborn Christian can have this pure heart (one that is declared good in God’s eyes).

Next he says “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” How we love is going to show the difference in good vs. evil.  Good and evil is a major theme in the Bible.  If we go all the way back to the garden, in Gen 2-3, we see the serpent saying: eat from this tree and you will be like God, knowing good and evil; the serpent is a tempter.  He doesn’t bring Adam and Eve to enlightenment, but rather he exposes them to evil.  He presents the idea that we can be our own gods, or know as much as the true living God.; this is what “knowing good and evil” apart from God is like—it’s our own discernment, it is being wise in our own eyes.

In verse 9, he then says that we hate what is evil/abhor it (NAS), and cling to what is good.  The idea is repeated in 1 Tim 1:5- “test everything, hold fast what is good.” We can’t just assume that things are good or evil, we must test them, we must have a standard by which to judge them (God), and then we hold fast to them.  Heb 5:14 says “[our] powers of discernment [must be] trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” We need constant practice- it’s not: believe, then know forever good from evil; not: read bible once and get it, not: go to church 5 years when younger and get it, but we all need constant practice…  We’re too bombarded by culture and their view of good and evil. We need to be practicing learning discernment.  We may see glimpses of God’s truth in the culture, but they can’t be taken in isolation from God.  So we must learn to distinguish good from evil, then learn to actively choose the good in all situations in our life. And later in v. 21- it’s this good that will overcome evil.

In the following verses, Paul will lay out some aspects of positive Christian ways of behaving and negative ones—ones that are not to at all be characteristic of a Christian.  We’ll see in this passage how the biblical view of good and evil is different from the popular cultural way of seeing good and evil.

What are some of the positive ways Paul lists that are considered “good”?

Verses 10-13: 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

These are positive actions that Paul wants God’s people to do.  These are all considered good.  These are characteristics that God’s people should have. We should strive towards these (we most likely don’t excel in any of these).  They are a part of our growing in holiness, growing to be more like Christ, they are a part of our sanctification, our being made holy.  [v. 10a] We are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Brotherly love or Christian love is this: it’s  about friendship, community, caring for others genuinely.  Paul in the letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4:9) says “you are taught by God to love one another;” we are taught by God, not by Grey’s Anatomy or Gossip Girl or Oprah.  We have to be taught how to love each other in this way- it’s not innate, we’re not born knowing how to love in this way.  [v.10b] We are to honor one another above yourselves.  To honor is to show respect for someone’s authority or worthiness- all believers are worthy of your honor.  We need humility to do this.

Then (v. 11), we must be active in our affections, in our zeal, in our love, we must have fervor or spiritual intensity- this is how we serve the lord.  We serve God, again, with humility, just as we serve and honor our brothers and sisters.

We are to (v. 12) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. We are patient in affliction- or the NASB says, “persevere in tribulation.”  After coming to faith in Christ, Christians will experience persecution from others (especially if came to faith later in life).  For example, one might receive subtle looks fro others, or people don’t understand why want to go to bible study and hang out with “those people,” or maybe you lose friends because you don’t want to go out late or drink just to get wasted anymore.  Maybe you are called names like “bible banger” or “holy roller,” or there may be more overt acts, such as shunned from certain groups.  This also means that non-Christians will have different ideas of how life should be lived, you live by different standards, even your idea of good and evil can be different.  We need endurance as we struggle through these things.  Where do we find the endurance??

And we are to (v. 13) share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. We are also to share with God’s people who are in need: this means serving the needs of others (Rom 15:25), devoting ourselves to ministry and to ministering to each other (1 Cor 16:15; 2 Cor 9:1; Heb 6:10), engaging in living life with Christians.  We must share our struggles, share our material blessings, and share emotional love and support.  W must be a community to one another.  Finally Paul says practice hospitality.  From the mouth of Jesus (Matt 25:35), we hear: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;” Hospitality isn’t about who’s house is cleanest or biggest, or who serves the best meal or has the fanciest china, but it’s about meeting needs, basic needs: hunger, thirst, shelter.   Jesus’ discourse on meeting these needs is concluded with “as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Hospitality is about so much more than just being a good hostess of parties.  It’s an encounter with Christ.   These are all things that are part of God’s definition of “good”- notice that serving the lord and being in prayer are a part of this, we must be near and following the Lord to be truly good. If we just take one of these good characteristics in isolation from God, we distort the meaning and it is not good in God’s eyes then.

See how a nonbeliever is unable of fulfilling these?  They may be doing good in their own eyes, but God wants service, prayer, love, patience, etc.

Verses 14-16 set up some contrasts between good and evil behavior.  What it means to be “wise” in God’s estimation, in God’s eyes.  14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited. First, we bless those who persecute you and do not curse them.  This is counter-intuitive.  Maybe we know it from hearing it in church, but it’s not the way we want to respond.  When someone cuts me off, or doesn’t like the way I do things , Or if someone attacks my character , I want to say “who cares what they think anyway”- or I think I know better anyway, but Jesus says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute [or mistreat (Lk 6:28)] you” (Matt 5:44).

Even rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn can be counter-intuitive.  Paul’s not necessarily saying, “empathize with others,” or be compassionate (that’s a part of it), BUT rejoice when you don’t want to rejoice (ie. friend’s job promotion, able to afford more than you, when your younger sister gets married before you do), and mourn when you don’t want to, like when you rather think positively so you don’t get down, or a friend has been depressed for so long that you don’t want to deal with her anymore.  Weep when she weeps.

Paul say do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  He wants people to get out of their comfort zones in associating with people of low position, and not just one Saturday a year. This is why we make it a point to be involved in PCPC’s mercy ministries, especially Union Gospel mission.  He wants us to love and be friends with people who have less than we do- this is godly wisdom.

Finally, verse 16 says never be conceited. the NAS translates this as “do not be wise in your own estimation.” Don’t be wise in your own eyes (that’s what Adam and Eve were trying to be), from your own learning or understanding, but learn to be wise in God’s eyes, we must learn to discern, practice and be trained in godly wisdom, in discerning good from evil.   This summer our study is going to be on godly character.  It’s a further way to learn to discern character as we’re taught in the media from what is true biblical character.  We must learn from God, sit at his feet and listen: hear his love for you. Being truly wise is clinging to the good.  Clinging to God.

Verses 17-21 speak to ways we are naturally tempted to respond, but to which we must use godly wisdom, which can be unconventional, in responding.  We must use wisdom discerned from following God, not from what we learn around us.  17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Verse 17 is like verses 14 and 16, instead of naturally wanting to return evil for evil, we are to bless those who wrong us. We must be careful to do what is ultimately right in God’s eyes, but here, even in the eyes of greater mankind.  So if a friend is telling you to respond in one way, and it seems like a good idea or it feels right, question whether everyone else would think this was the right way to respond, and test if it’s the way God would have you respond.

19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. We must wait on the Lord (Prov 20:22).  We can’t repay that person what we think they “deserve,” and we can’t do to someone else what they did to you (Prov 24:29).  In Grey’s Anatomy, the killer said “an eye for an eye” (he quotes the Old Testament).  He says, “I came here for justice.”  But, he missed the message of Jesus though, who said “not an eye for an eye” but rather turn the other cheek.  See how he misses the context and full story of the Bible and God’s redemption through Jesus Christ?  This is an example of how the culture distorts God’s message.  It sound biblical, because he’s quoting the Bible, but he’s quoting only one piece in isolation from the rest of God’s word.  This man’s revenge is his only resort in a world without God—it’s his only resort and only hope for justice.  He wants someone to pay- he’s repaying evil for evil.

But, in Deut 32:35 (which is also in the Old Testament, and near what passage the killer was quoting), we see that God says “it is mine to avenge” or “vengeance is mine.”  Verse 19 is a quote of this Old Testament passage.  “I will repay,” God says.  In the following verse says that the Lord will “vindicate his people and he will have compassion on his servants.” It’s not that God doesn’t see or care what this person has done, but that repaying one’s deeds is God’s job alone.  He is the judge, he is the avenger.  He loves his people, and he has compassion on them.  As Christians, we know God cares deeply, he will take care of any revenge for wrongs committed against us.

The passage follows: 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Verse 20 sets up a contrast to how we respond (it’s an elaboration of verse 14).  This verse is also quoting an Old Testament Proverb (Prov 25:21) word for word.  And, these were the same words Jesus used in telling others how to live in an unjust world.  He says to pray for those who abuse you.  The book of proverbs is about learning godly wisdom, learning to discern, good from evil, what is right and just.  A favorite passage in Proverbs for many is Ch. 3:4-5- “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”   The very next verse says: “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”  That’s what Proverbs is about, not being wise in your own eyes, but in God’s eyes.  That’s also what this passage in Romans is teach.  They both say that we must learn to be wise in God’s eyes and not in our own eyes.  Our own judgment is not reliable.

Finally, we come back to the same idea which began this passage: 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. We are not to let this evil overcome us: it could if we aren’t discerning, aren’t practicing, aren’t learning from mistakes.  We need to be asking for forgiveness and moving toward God.  With practice, we can learn to test what is good and evil and overcome evil with good.  Now, there are many situations where there may seem to be no clear right or wrong.  This is why we must learn to turn to God, his scriptures, and our community to grow in our ability to discern good an evil in a situation.

Flip to Romans Ch. 16, verse 19 (we’re using the context of Romans 12-16 to help us understand this passage): “19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Paul knows that the Romans are heard to be good people (he is satisfied with their goodness as believers), they are obedient to Christ and to the gospel (they are filled with all knowledge and able to help teach one another- Rom 15:14), and he is overjoyed at the news.  He still wants to write to them about these things because there are false teachers among them, and people trying to teach doctrines that are different from what Paul laid out in Chs. 1-11, so in Chs. 12-16, he wants to teach them about the truth of what is good.

Back to the Grey’s Anatomy story: so we can’t look in a man’s eyes and just see that he’s a good man.  Derek is trying to appeal to the killer’s shared humanity with him, but this isn’t what good is: it’s not a sparkle in your eye, tenderness because his wife died, but goodness is following God and having relationship with him.  We can’t listen to popular culture and their view of good and evil, because they are teaching us false messages.  The culture is going to teach a false view of good and evil if it’s separated from who God is—that’s why Paul writes these things in Chs. 12-16.  Paul wants them to be innocent about what is evil.  “Innocent” can also mean “blameless” “free from guilt.”  He wants them to move from being easily tempted by it to being free from falling into its traps.  He wants them to live in light of their justification (being declared innocent in God’s eyes).  He wants them to learn to be “wise” about the difference between good and evil.

The next verse speaks of the ultimate defeat that is coming: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” This is why we don’t worry about taking our own revenge right now—we know evil was defeated at the cross, and Jesus will soon ultimately crush it—but we need God’s grace to live in the tension of feeling the evil now and waiting for it’s ultimate destruction.  So then if this good we discern from God is capable of overcoming evil, then what is this ultimate good?  It is God himself – overcome evil by clinging to what is good—to God.  To Christ: look at Rom 15:3:3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” It’s not that evil is ultimately happening against us (though we feel it), but it’s ultimately against God—that’s why it’s God’s job to avenge.  Don’t repay evil for evil: God will settle it and he already has on the cross.  Overcome evil by clinging to what is good- to God.  To be truly wise means to cling to Jesus Christ for our understanding of good and evil and for the power to discern the good.

Question- How do you find this to be hard to live up to?  If so, how?

We want to be careful to not read this passage in isolation from its context (we need to read the surrounding passages).  An isolated reading can lead to moralism.  Strive harder to choose good over evil, work harder, try to please God by excelling in these things.  This is moralism.  We must read this passage in context and understand how God is telling us to live our lives.  We must read it in light of the gospel and what God has done for you in Jesus’ death, his taking on himself the insults that come against us, and ultimately crushing Satan.

The good news for living this way is this: Rom 15:4-5- “4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”  Scripture teaches us, God, through the scriptures, gives us the endurance and encouragement of scripture to endure the suffering, the evil that comes our way.  Our hope is this: that God gives us this endurance and through knowing Jesus and being united to him, we are able to learn true good from evil.

Application

How do we live this way then? We must recognize where we fall short or bear the evil traits.  where we want revenge or just to “warn” people against someone who has hurt us.  We need to ask forgiveness (and truly repent) when stumble.  This may mean seeking someone out and telling them that what they did hurt you.  We need to see true reconciliation modeled for us in our community.  We must ask to be shown where our hearts seek after these evil things, or want revenge, or to gossip about someone.  We must also seek to see where we think we instinctively know what is good, and ask for true discernment.

Remember God’s truths of who you are- you are a new creation in Christ, God has promised his spirit to guide us, he has given his word and his church community for us to discern good from evil.  Meditate on his promises, such as that he has taken on himself the insults that come against us.  Pray that you will remember who you are in Christ: you have moved from death to life, we’ve moved from the good/evil schema of the world, to understanding the truth about good and evil, that God is truth, God is good, and we cling to this…

Pray for the Holy spirit to fill you and to help you practice where you are weak, even where you don’t feel like you do a good job; we are able to do it because it is already true of us in God’s sight.  Pray that you will be able to move toward the “good” described in this passage.  We must discern good (need to be in an active community, learning God’s word, being fervent in prayer), then actively choose good over evil.  Pray for the strength to change which comes through the Holy Spirit.  Eph 3:20 says “20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” The power at work in us is the Holy Spirit, teaching us all that Christ taught us—we have this power now.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, we learn from this passage and from the context of Romans, and from Jesus’ life that: Unlike popular ideas of good and evil, and how to live life, to be truly wise means to cling to Jesus Christ for our understanding of good and evil and for the power (through the Holy Spirit) to discern the good.

Questions for Discussion & Application:

●       What are some other cultural ideas of good and evil?  How do you struggle in knowing the difference in what God says is biblical good and evil?

●       How do you struggle to grow in some of these positive ways of biblical “good”?  Give examples.

●       What are other ways you can grow in learning biblical discernment?  Give specific ways that relate to your life.

Romans 9: Election

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Before we start I want to make the point that every time I study election I start all over again at square one resistant to believe it to be true and questioning the very nature of it. And I find myself having to decide what I believe about it all over again! So if this is something that you struggle with or find difficult to understand, know that most people do and that it’s ok to continue to struggle with it. And know that we don’t need to know where we stand on this issue in order to be saved.

I also wanted to make the point that while I’m going to talk a little about Israel tonight, I am not going to be able to deal fully with what Paul is saying about Israel overall in chapters 9, 10, and 11. But what we are going to focus on tonight is what Paul says about election and the sovereignty of God.

So over the last few chapters Paul has laid out how God has redeemed His people through Christ. And now, he takes a break to explain that this is all connected to the faith and beliefs of the Israelites/Jews, and that it does not replace what they had previously believed, but instead explains it further and fulfills what had been prophesied to them. So what we are about to read in chapter 9 is going to explain how the Jews and Gentiles both fit into God’s plan of redemption, which originally was thought to just be for the Jews. So although at first this chapter seems to be written about Israel, it is actually just a further explanation of God and His plan of redemption.

Read Romans 9:1-5

Paul begins by telling them of the anguish and sorrow he feels over his own kinsmen, Israel. He even exaggerates his emotions in verse 3 saying he would do anything to help them, he would symbolically give his life, his status before God. But he doesn’t yet say why they need help. So then in the next verses he lists all of the blessings that God has poured over Israel as His chosen people, he says 8 things

1.     They were adopted by God as His children

2.     God gave them His presence, He dwelt among them, called here “the divine glory”

3.     God made a covenant with them, they had the promises of God first

4.     They were the ones who received God’s law, which Paul has already said was good and perfect, not bad.

5.     They were also given the laws to practice temple worship, and way to commune with and glorify God and atone for their sins

6.     They were given the promises of God which was to be their source of comfort and hope

7.     They had the patriarchs which were their leaders given to them by God to help them live within the covenant

8.     And lastly, from them came the savior, Christ! Think of how proud we are when there is a great athlete from Texas or an American Idol, now imagine the pride you would feel if Jesus had been a Texan!

What Paul is saying here is that of all people the Israelites were the most privileged, they had been given more from God to spur them on in their faith than any other people group that would ever live. Yet Paul was full of sorrow and anguish over them, Why? Why would he feel that way? Because they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and were even persecuting those who did! Everything God had done for them up to that point was leading them to Christ, and they missed it!! So Paul says his sorrow is so deep that he would consider giving up his status before God if he could in order to save Israel – this is a similar sentiment that we read Moses had for Israel, and of course, this is what Jesus did for mankind.

Read Romans 9:6-13

Now Paul brings up a question that was most likely being asked by many: Did God’s plan fail? If God planned to save all Jews but now there were Jews who refused to believe Jesus was the messiah that they had been waiting for, then did God’s plan fail? Another way to put this question is, how do we make sense of not all Israel believing in Christ if they were God’s chosen people? Did God’s plan fail?

Paul’s answer is NO, it was not God’s promise that failed, it was Israel…and here’s his logic that he lays out in verses 6-7:

●       v.6 Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel

●       v.7 Not all of Abraham’s descendants are his children

●       v.7 “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”

Now, this last reference is from Gen 21:12 –when God told Abraham and Sarah that the nation of Israel would not come from Abraham’s first child, Ishmael, who he had with his maid, but instead through Sarah and their son Isaac. Notice that this is reverse reasoning….look at it starting in the last part. God made a promise through Abraham, then through his son Isaac, then through Isaac’s son Jacob, who God later named Israel. And then that leads us back to verse 6 where he says, not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, not all are God’s children. He further explains…

In verse 8 Paul says, (from the NASB) “That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” So here is what Paul is reminding them of, there have always been two distinctions when it came to Israel,

1.     those who physically descended from Israel, children of the flesh

2.     those who spiritually descended from Israel, children of the promise

When it comes to who God’s people are, it is spiritual, not physical. Then in verses 9-13 he offers some “proof texts.”

1.     Promise through Isaac – Here Paul quotes Genesis 18:10 & 14 when God told Abraham and Sarah that He would make his covenant with Abraham’s descendents and he makes it clear that that covenant is being made not with all of Abraham’s physical children, but only through Isaac. Those are the children of the promise.

2.     Promise through Jacob – Then he turns to the story of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 25. And Paul makes the point that there was no reason for God to choose one over the other: they both came from Rebekah, they both came from Isaac, they were twins, and they hadn’t even been born yet so neither had become better than the other. He even emphasizes in verse 12 that it had nothing to do with any works that either one would do. Yet Paul says God chose Jacob over Esau. In verse 13 Paul quotes Malachi 1:2, 3 when God says “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” Now what gets lost in translation here is that the word “hate” there is not the same emotion of hate that you and I would think of, but more one of a lack of preference, God chose Jacob and did not choose Esau.

Naturally, it is human nature to now ask, If neither were better than the other and there was no distinction, then for what reason did God chose Jacob over Esau? So Paul tells us in verses 11-12 that God did it, “In order that God’s purpose in election might stand” and “Because of Him who calls.” So at this point what Paul is saying is that God intended to redeem the children of the promise in Israel, but not all of Israel. That there was always the element of election to be considered. God chose some, but He did not choose all. Which leads us to the next question we need to face…

Read Romans 9:14-21

What Paul has just laid out is that not all of Israel are considered to be children of God, not because of anything they have done, but simply because God chose some and not others. So now he deals with the two main objections he knows they will have to this.

Objection #1: God is unjust to choose some and not all

To answer this, in verse 15, Paul reminds them that God is not unjust in doing this. Now before we look at what Paul says, there is something we need to understand about justice. Paul has just gone over in detail that all of mankind is guilty of not choosing to follow God, so what is actually fair and just would be for all of mankind to pay the penalty for that, God would have been just had He not chosen to save anyone! 2 Peter 2:4 tells us that when angels sinned against God they were not spared or forgiven at all, but instead they paid the penalty for what they did and were immediately cast into hell and judged. This is justice in the kingdom of God and what would have been just if fully executed against all of mankind. So conversely, what is unfair, is those who are guilty being forgive for what they have done rather than having to pay the penalty and face hell and judgment. It is unfair for God to show mercy at all because in a perfect and fair judicial system those who are guilty must pay the penalty.

So in answer to this question in verse 15 Paul refers to what God said to Moses in Exodus 33. Moses was praying to God regarding Israel and their entrance into the promised land, and Moses was being very demanding towards God as we often are in prayer, and finally Moses asks God to show him His glory. And God answers, yes I will, but know that “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” This is very reminiscent of God’s response to Moses at the burning bush after God has told Moses what to do and Moses asks God, who shall I say sent me? In other words, what authority or power shall I say you have? And remember God’s answer to him? “I am who I am.” God owed no one an explanation of who He was – because He is God. And in the same way, He owes no explanation for why he shows mercy to some but not to all, He is God and that is His choice.

So in verse 16, Paul says being chosen by God has nothing to do with whether you want to be chosen or you try to be good so He’ll choose you, it only has to do with His mercy and whether He has chosen to extend it to you or not. Because the truth of sin that we read in Romans 3 is that none chose God, none can be holy and righteous. In the same way, Paul says in verse 17, those who God does not choose to be saved, He hardens. Which means that just as God chooses to show mercy to some resulting in eternal life, He chooses not to show mercy to others resulting in their eternal damnation. But remember God did not choose eternal damnation for them, they did, God only chose to show mercy to some and not others. Here Paul uses the example of Pharaoh in Exodus 9 and God’s explanation that He had a purpose in hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Here Paul explains that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to display God’s power and so that God’s name would be proclaimed in all the earth. So, the purpose both in choosing some to be saved and not others is the same, to glorify God, that His power and His name would be known throughout the earth.

So Paul concludes his answer about whether God is just to save some and not others, in verse 18, by simply summarizing, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” It is not about justice, it is about mercy and that God can choose on whom he will have mercy and on whom he will not.

Objection #2: If it is about God’s will in choosing some and not others, then how can those God has not chosen be blamed and judged if there was nothing they could do about it anyway? – Another question we might ask that is similar to this is, If God knew who would be saved and who would not, then why did He even give life to those who would not be saved? And at this point Paul’s answer is basically “God is sovereign so He can do whatever pleases Him!” We do not have the authority to question Him or His choices. Since God is God, He has the right to do what He will in accordance to His justice and mercy.

This is an especially difficult thing for us to except because we are a generation that doesn’t have great respect for authorities and we demand answers so that on our own we can decide what we think is true and isn’t. We don’t accept answer such as, “that is not your concern” or “because I said so.” But this is the Biblical response and so we must hear it and not reject it. I want to read what Wayne Grudem writes on this subject which I think is a great summary of what Paul is saying.

“Paul simply says that there is a point beyond which we cannot answer back to God or question his justice. He has done what he has done according to his sovereign will. He is the Creator; we are the creatures, and we ultimately have no basis from which to accuse him of unfairness or injustice. When we read these words of Paul we are confronted with a decision whether of not to accept what God says here, and what he does, simply because he is God and we are not. It is a question that reaches deep into our understanding of ourselves as creatures and of our relationship to God as our Creator.

This objection of unfairness takes a slightly different form when people say that it is unfair of God to save some people and not to save all. This objection is based on the idea of justice among human beings that we sense intuitively. We recognize in human affairs that it is right to treat equal people in an equal way. Therefore it seems intuitively appropriate to us to say that if God is going to save some sinners he ought to save all sinners. But in answer to this objection it must be said that we really have no right to impose on God our intuitive sense of what is appropriate among human beings. Whenever Scripture begins to treat this area it goes back to God’s sovereignty as Creator and says he has a right to do with his creation as he wills (see Rom. 9:19-20, quoted above). If God ultimately decided to create some creatures to be saved and others not to be saved, then that was his sovereign choice, and we have no moral or scriptural basis on which we can insist that it was not fair.”Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, p.683

How do we respond to this difficult truth?

Some of us find this very difficult to believe and respond to, while others of you have grown up in a tradition that taught this well, but regardless of where you are coming from there are a few things we need to keep in mind when it comes to how this affects us and how we should respond to it.

1. Rather than question our salvation asking “how do I know if I am chosen or not?”, we need to recognize that if we have faith then we are elect! – Our faith is proof of our election. We cannot believe in Him unless God has chosen us to believe and given us the ability to believe. Look at Romans 10:9-13,

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Here, after telling the Romans of God’s election, he then explains the simplicity of it: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” So rather than being discouraged by election, we should allow it to affirm in us our salvation and our status before God. Nothing can change the fact that He has chosen us….not our continual sin, or hardships, or people, or anything… We are secure in Him which frees us to wake up every day and live for Him. As Paul says elsewhere, to forget what is behind and strive for what is ahead for us in Christ. Paul concludes this chapter in Romans 9:33 saying that this truth can either be a stumbling block for you or it can lead you to trust in Him and never be put to shame. So choose that rather than let it be a stumbling block to you in your faith.

2. Rather than question God and reject His will, we should choose to humbly submit to Him as God – We must recognize that we are merely His creatures and He is our creator, we couldn’t even begin to fully understand His ways. Read in Romans 11:33-36 Paul’s response to this,

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Paul understood God’s plan of redemption and the character of God more than anyone, yet he was humble enough to admit that he was a mere man and that there was no way he would ever fully understand the mysteries of God. And rather respond in rebellion and anger to God over this, he responded in humility and worship! And this should be our response as well. It should lead us to humility before God, worship of Him, and even humility before other men.

3. Recognize that election isn’t salvation, it is the first step. – Not only is someone chosen before time, but there will also be a time of hearing the gospel and choosing to believe, then there is also sanctification. Which means we should find joy in God including us in the salvation and sanctification of others. We evangelize knowing that there are elect people all around us who are waiting to hear the truth so that they can come to faith and be saved.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” Paul did what he did because he knew there were people out there that God had chosen for salvation who needed to hear the good news. He also continued teaching the truth to those who had already put their faith in Christ knowing that he could encourage them in their sanctification. So don’t let election keep you from sharing truth with others, but let it free you up to do that knowing that some will be saved!

Questions for Discussion & Application:

●       How does election make you feel? Be honest and discuss together

●       What are some negative responses you or others have had to election?

●       How should election comfort and assure us?

Romans 7-8 by Keeley Chorn

The Following Study and Audio are by Keeley Chorn, Young Women’s Bible Study. Press play on the player below to listen to this message. Or to download to your computer – On a PC right-click “download audio” and select “Save As Target.” On a Mac Ctrl+click “download audio” and choose “Download linked file as.”

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The Heights and Depths of God’s Love in Christ Jesus

When Ashley and I first met to discuss our teaching of Romans, and we were looking at Chapters 5-8, we saw how Paul really teaches a lot of big themes in this section.  We thought it would be a good idea to look at some of these themes, such as justification, adoption, and sanctification and to define them, to look at what is involved in them, and really to lay out some of the major foundations of Paul’s theology of the Christian life.

Because we’re just surveying Romans, which is all you can do in 6 weeks, we wanted to introduce to you to some of this theology and some of these bigger terms that get thrown around in casual Christian conversation.  I’ve heard people label our use of these theological words as “Christian-speak” or “Christian-ese speak.”  By saying that this is Christian-speak, it is really saying, this is “inside” language.  This distinguishes me from you, a real believer from a non-believer.  I want us to learn to avoid Christian-speak, to avoid separating ourselves from others….

Now these terms can be and are extremely helpful, so I don’t want to just say it’s wrong to use them, but we must be careful how we use them.  Paul uses these words in his gospels, so they are good words; they communicate what he’s trying to explain.  They’re foundational to Christian life, but they can often be used in Christian conversation without defining or exploring them, and so we can carry hollow meanings of them around (if we even know what they mean).  If and when I use these terms, I like to always say what I mean by my use of the word.  When I’m leading and other people use these terms, I like to ask them to tell us what they mean by them.  I do this so that we know we are talking about the same thing, and so that others who may not be as familiar with the Bible or Paul’s teaching here, can know what we’re talking about.  I think trying to be clear is a minimum when we’re trying to communicate our faith to others, even to other believers.

So tonight we’re going to look at a lot of theological terms.  I’m sorry to give you so many, and I’m going to try and not overload you.  But in Romans 8, Paul uses a lot of them, so I want us to know what he means by them.  Write them down, think about them.  Refer to them when someone else uses them… Remember, that this is an overview.  I hope you will come away with a better understanding of what these terms mean, what their definitions are, but also what they mean in terms of the Christian life and in terms of how we live out our own lives faithfully to God who has brought us, as we saw last week,  from death to life.

How have you seen Christian theological terms positively or negatively used in your experience in the church or around Christians?

Our purpose in looking at these terms is to make them clear, to get an overview of them, and to hopefully be able to explain them to others.

Review

We’ve been looking in Romans over the past 3 weeks and have seen that a believer is one who believes from the heart and therefore their actions flow from this belief.  Paul talks a lot about the law and how it is unable to make a person righteous or holy before God; that it can have the opposite effect because it magnifies and can even seem to bring out sin.  In Romans 3 we saw that no one is righteous before God, but then last week in Romans 5 and 6, we saw that through union with Christ, a believer is considered dead to sin and alive in God; a believer is now seen as righteous.  We talked about being made righteous before God, not through the law, but through Christ, as our justification.  In Romans 7, Paul wraps up a major section on what the law is and is not.  He ultimately declares that the law is holy, it is good, it is righteous, but that it doesn’t have the power to save you.  Only Christ can save you, and through him we died to the law, but now we live under a new law, the law of the Spirit.

We move to looking at Romans Ch. 8, and we see that Ch. 8 is Paul at his best.  I could have prepared at least four different talks on the different subsections, because each subsection is extremely rich.  I even wanted to prepare four different talks, but we only have one night, so I’m compromising for you…  No, really, we could have taken one small passage and really delved into it, and taken away a nugget of truth for ourselves and how to live out our lives.  But because Ch. 8 is so rich, I want us to look at it from a high-level point of view.  I want us to see how Paul lays out his theology of the Christian life.  I want us to get more than a nugget and begin to see the structure of Paul’s view of what it means to have life “in Christ,” to be “in Christ.”  Ch. 8 is just as deep in its overarching theme as it is deep in its subsections.  You will see these overarching themes in every letter that Paul wrote.  And he gives most of them to you, right here in Ch. 8.

Read Romans 8.

Illustration

My parents were divorced when I was 5 years old.  My dad left our family and quickly started a new one.  I was hurt, but I was 5, so I didn’t really know what was going on.  I don’t have a lot of memories from that time, but I do remember how I felt when I was sad or lonely, or didn’t get my way, or felt that my mom was being unfair to me (which for a selfish 5-yr-old, was probably a lot).  I remember in those times of frustration crying out over and over again, “I want my daddy.  I want my daddy. I want my daddy.”  I knew that if my dad was there, life would be better.  I knew that he would make everything better.  I knew that if only my dad were there, then life would make sense.  I knew that my dad’s love was so strong that it would rescue me from whatever trial I was facing.

But each time I cried out, and I sobbed uncontrollably, and my mom would even threaten to call my dad, he never came.  My dad never came.  He never rescued me.  He never made that situation better.  He didn’t make that life any easier or any better for me.  My life didn’t make sense because my dad wasn’t there.  And he wasn’t coming.  (It didn’t mean that he didn’t love me anymore, but that he didn’t love me in the way I thought he should.  He didn’t love me in a way that I could visibly see and recognize and feel.)

Later my dad was killed by a train, which seemed like another abandonment to me.  I was fatherless.  When I finally came around to a true relationship with God, I, unfortunately, brought a lot of this baggage from my own father to how I viewed my relationship with God.  I think a lot of us do this.  I believed in God as a Father, but I still wasn’t entirely sure I could trust him.  What if he abandoned me or rejected me?  These were questions that were always underlying the surface.  After going to counseling, I had a breakthrough when I realized that my dad had hurt me, but that God the Father wasn’t like my dad.  God would never abandon or reject me.  I realized that my parents were sinners too, my dad made mistakes, just like I still actively make mistakes that hurt others deeply.  But God is unlike this.  Maybe you had or have a really great, loving, Christian father, or maybe you have one like mine.  Well, I want you to come to know that God’s love for his children is so much better than even the best of these fathers’ love.  I give this illustration in order to make a contrast between our earthly fathers’ love for us and our heavenly father’s love for us.

The Heights and Depths of God’s Love

Tonight I’m calling this lesson, the Heights and Depths of God’s Love.  The heights and depths of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.   We’re going to look at 3 things: The Pattern of God’s Love, The Benefits of God’s Love, and How We Are More than Conquerors through God’s Love.

First, The Pattern of God’s Love.  Last week, I talked about Union in Christ.  I talked about how through our baptism/conversion event, we were joined to Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom 6 vv. 3-4).  We looked at how we were justified, or declared righteous in God’s sight, by virtue of being in Christ, being united to him.  This week, in Romans 8, we’re looking in a much broader sense at what more, than justification, believers have by virtue of this union.

There are two points I want to make about union with Christ.  The first is about events that occurred in “the history of salvation” (or in time where God is working to redeem his people from slavery to sin).  The first point of union, “the history of salvation,” is simply that the life, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus Christ was an historical event and sinners were united to him in this event… Everything about Christ’s life was an historical event and sinners were united to him in this event.  Christ saved his people, once for all, at one point in time.  Christ accomplished redemption for his people.  His work is unrepeatable in time and it’s final.  It was sufficient.  1 Peter 3:18 says “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”  Christ’s death had the purpose of bringing us to God, uniting us to him.  So we were united in the moment that Christ died on the cross.

The second point I want to make about union with Christ is called the “order of salvation,” and it means that we are personally united with Christ in our own lives, at the time of our baptism/conversion event…  At this moment then, all the work of Christ saving his people, all of this comes to benefit sinners who believe, and the benefits of this union are then applied to them, they (or you and me) became “in Christ,” and were united to him. So the second point, “the order of salvation” is that union with Christ is personal, and it involves the application of Christ’s benefits to believers.  It is personally applied to as many as believe, and it affects a change in the believer’s life and continues to effect change.  These two points are what is meant by the idea of “union with Christ.”

So in discussing the pattern of God’s love, let’s look at what is God’s love? Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” and in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” So God’s love is that Christ laid down his life for his friends, for sinners, for you and me…  Christ laid down his life in order that we could know God’s love.  It is through Jesus Christ that we come to know what God’s love is.

Then what is the pattern of God’s love?  What is the pattern that gets applied to us in our union with Christ?  The pattern is Jesus’ own life which he laid down, in love.  The pattern of God’s love is Christ’s own life. His life, his death, his resurrection, for sinners, is both the culminating event of the Father’s love for us, and it’s also the pattern of God’s love for us.  Christ’s life, then, will provide the pattern by which our own lives are lived.  And by this, I mean that the pattern of Jesus’ death and resurrection has benefits.  These benefits will then be replicated and applied in individual believers’ lives.

Second, The Benefits of God’s Love. Our union with Christ has many benefits.  Union with Christ is how the pattern of God’s love in Christ is applied to believers.  We receive many saving benefits from God just by believing in his Son as our Savior…  These benefits are ours.  We’re going to look at 9 of them tonight.  Okay, I know, 9 is a lot, but Paul addresses all of these here in Romans 8…I’m going to try and do justice to each of them, but to also move rather quickly through them.  I’m not listing them in the order in which we receive them (in our union), because we receive them all at the timepoint of our union with Christ, but you might notice a little order, and its based on how we encounter them as we move through Romans Ch. 8.  The 9 are: death and resurrection in Christ, regeneration, adoption, calling, predestination, sanctification, justification, glorification, and perseverance.

One, there is Death and Resurrection in Christ. We looked at this last week in Rom 6:3-4 where we are said to have entered into Christ’s death and resurrection through our baptism/conversion event.  Eph 2:4-6 also speaks to where we were made alive even though we were dead, and God raised us up with Christ.  Another passage is Colossians 3:1-4 which says “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” and “you have been raised with Christ.” Paul speaks of the believer as having participated in Christ’s death and resurrection by the union with Christ.

Two, regeneration.  Regeneration is a term that emphasizes the renewal, rebirth, or re-creation of fallen humans by the indwelling Holy Spirit to a saving faith…Rom 8:6-8: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Here we see that man cannot and is not able to please God, and in Rom 3 we saw that no one seeks God and no one does good.  Man (or woman), by herself, is unable to be renewed or regenerated.  Another key passage for regeneration is John 3, vv. 3, 5 where Jesus meets with Nicodemus, and says “unless one is born from above [v.3] or born of water and the Spirit [v.5], he cannot see [v.3] or enter [v.5] the kingdom of God.” Also, John 1, v. 13 is clear that this birth is not from the will of man, we can’t will it or hope it, but it is of God and from God. In Rom 8:11 “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” We see that the Spirit of life brings about regeneration which emphasizes renewal or rebirth by the Holy Spirit.

Three, adoption.  Adoption is the act by which God makes otherwise estranged people part of God’s spiritual family.  He includes his children as inheritors of the riches of divine glory. Romans 8:14-17 “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [or daughtership]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory,” and in verse 23: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons [or daughters], the redemption of our bodies.” God brings us into his family and God is a father to us unlike any earthly father.  He is unlike my own father, as much as I loved him, because he far surpasses any idea of fatherhood that I have ever known.  When I cry out that “I want my daddy,” I now know that it is God the Father who answers me.  He is the one who comes when I call (he’s already here!); he’s the one who rescues me (and already has); he’s the one who helps my life make sense.

As children of God, specifically daughters in our case, we are inheritors and co-heirs with Christ, our brother, of God’s glory…  We share in the glory now and yet verse 23 points out that we have it only partially now.  There is a sense in which the not-yet aspect is still to come, which is the adoption culminating in our bodies also being redeemed.  Being adopted is intrinsic to having glory.  Adoption is how God makes us part of his family and it’s how we inherit the riches of divine glory.  [Do you think of yourself as God’s daughter, and more than that as an heir equal with Christ, your brother, because you are in Christ?]

Four, callingRom 8, v. 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Calling can have several meanings.  One would be the idea of a general call, as in people preaching the gospel and its being heard as a call to repentance.  Another idea would be the effective call, or effectual call– this is the type of call which is referred to here, because Paul is referring to people who are called according to God’s purposes.  So, the meaning of effectual call is that the Holy Spirit gives the grace so that an individual receives forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  Notice that God is the one working in making the call effective and it is given so that the person can work for God’s purposes.  1 Cor 1:9 says that “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son,” and 1 Pet 2:9 also refers to God “who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” God is the one calling, we respond, the result of the call is union with Christ.  So, the effective call achieves its purpose, which is to call a person and give them the grace (and regeneration) to repent and receive forgiveness of sin.

Moving along to verses 29 and 30 in Romans, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

Five, predestination.  Here’s a definition: Predestination is the doctrine that God has from all eternity chosen specific people to bring into eternal communion with God’s self, meaning to give eternal life.  I’m not going to get into a debate over predestination or even jump more into the topic than Paul does here…, but I want to note that in this verse Paul talks about us being “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In Eph 1, verse 4 and 5, Paul also says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” God chose us before the creation of the world—see the effectual call—to be holy and blameless in his sight.  God didn’t just choose people so that he could collect a bunch of sinners and be nice to them and give them eternal life so they could feel better about themselves.  No!… God chose them to be holy and blameless.  Leviticus 19:2, says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy,” and Peter also quotes this Old Testament passage as a way that Christians should live their lives.  So, predestination is a doctrine about individuals being chosen from all eternity to have eternal life with God, but it’s also about so much more.  It’s about living life to God and for God, it’s about being conformed to the image of God’s son.

That brings us to six, sanctification.  Sanctification means “to be set apart” from common use or from common things, and also it means “to be made holy.” That’s what my previous point of predestination was about, being made holy.   So while Paul doesn’t explicitly mention sanctification in these verses, he refers to it implicitly when speaking about us being conformed to the likeness of his son.  We also saw instances of sanctification last week, when in Ch. 6, verses 11-14, we talked about the active doing part of righteous and holy living (“do not let sin reign in your mortal body,” “do not offer the parts of your body to sin,” “but rather offer yourselves to God”).  The active work we must be involved in flows as a result from our justification.  Now, sanctification is a term that really is about a twofold process.  There’s the fact that Christian’s have already been made holy through Christ (1 Cor 6:11: “you were washed, you were sanctified”—past tense), but then they are called to continue to grow into and strive for holiness by working with the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Pet 1:2: you “have been chosen…, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.”)  Sanctification is the twofold process by which we have already been made holy, and by which we are now continuing to be made holy and conformed to the image of God’s Son…

Seven, justification.  We talked about this last week. It’s the legal act by which God makes sinners righteous, by which he declares sinners legally innocent before him.  It’s the moving from being in Adam and in death | to being in Christ and in life. Remember the example of being picked by God and moved from one field dominated by Satan and into the other lovingly ruled by God.  It’s a change of legal status for the guilt of sins…  We also see it in verse 1 of Ch. 8, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Eight, glorification. I love this word J… In verse 30, Paul says that God has glorified those he has called.  Past tense, glorified.  This is another term, like sanctification (meaning to be made holy), that has a twofold aspect.  Glorification is the final stage in the process of salvation.  Let’s use that as our working definition.  Glorification is the final stage in the process of salvation.  It’s receiving all of God’s glory.  Paul says here that we’ve already been glorified, and in verse 17 that we will be glorified.  Paul says that through our suffering with Christ, we will be glorified- it’s a certainty.  This suffering unto glory is a mark also of our sanctification.  The process of being made holy, sanctified, is so that we can come to complete conformity to Christ which is glorification, the final part.  Right now, we have the glory which God gave the son, because Jesus has given that glory to us (John 17:22), and we are being “transformed from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18).  So, glorification has happened already, but we do “not yet” have it fully.  Final glorification is the resurrection of the body at the second coming of Jesus Christ.  It is complete conformity to the image of Jesus in holiness and it is being freed from spiritual and physical defect.  It is an assurance that we will never again struggle with sin.  This is why I love this word, because it presents such a great picture of what’s in store for us, and yet it’s what Paul says we possess, in part, even now.

Nine, and the final term I want to give you tonight is perseverance. Perseverance means, in Reformed Theology, that those who are truly among God’s chosen ones will remain faithful to the end, when Christ comes again to bring about our final glorification.  John 10:28-29 says, “no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” No one can take God’s chosen ones from him.  No one is greater than God or has the power to take them from him… Now, Paul doesn’t explicitly use this term either in Ch. 8, but the concept is there nevertheless.  Let’s look in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  The answer to who can separate us from the love of God is right there in verse 37.  Paul gives a negative answer.  No, none of these things can separate us from the love of God.  That’s what perseverance is: not being able to be separated from God’s love…  What a joy and blessing.  To know that those whom he has called, predestined, justified, and glorified will never be lost.  There is eternal security in knowing that believers will make it to the end…

That’s the nine that Paul presents here in Ch. 8.  These are the benefits of God’s love which God gives to us through union in Christ, after the pattern of his love, which is Jesus, his Son, and our co-heir.

That brings us to the final point, Third, How We Are More than Conquerors through God’s Love. Let’s look back at verse 37, Paul says that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Because we are united to Christ, because we receive the benefits of God’s love—those 9 big theological terms—because of God’s love for us which he gave in giving up his Son, Jesus Christ, for our sakes, because of all these things, that’s how we are more than conquerors through God’s love.  We are conquerors because of the benefits he has given us… Not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not danger, and not the sword…, no, none of these can separate us from the love of Christ.  None of these, and nothing else…

Conclusion

So why did I call this lesson, “The Heights and Depths of God’s Love”?  Because God’s love is so big.  It doesn’t look anything like my own father’s love.  I can barely comprehend all these pieces of God’s love.  I can tell you about these 9 big theological terms, but the real test is figuring out how I live out my life in loving obedience to this amazing God who has given me all these things and who calls me his own, and who allows me to be a part of his own glory!…  Verse 38, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”… Nothing can separate us from the heights and depths of God’s love.  There is nothing bigger or greater than God and nothing, not death, not life, not angels, not demons, not the present (maybe like some big sin we can’t seem to get out of), not the future, not any powers, not any different height, or depth, not anything can separate us from this love.  This is good news!  This is great news…  This is what the message of the gospel is: that Christ came to die for sinners who aren’t able to love or please God on their own, that Christ came to give you life, to renew you, to make you God’s adopted daughters, to call you, to bring about his predestining purpose, which is your sanctification, your being made holy, because he justified sinners, and he has come to glorify you and he will glorify you, and because of this love, you will eternally be secure in his hands, you will persevere.  This is the joy of the gospel…  That God gives all this to sinners who believe and accept what it is that his son has done, died on sinner’s behalf—on your behalf—so that you may have life.

Questions for Discussion & Application

The terms (benefits of union with Christ): death and life in Christ, regeneration, adoption, calling, predestination, sanctification, justification, glorification, perseverance

●       Are there any of these terms which you struggle to understand, in its definition?  Discuss the terms.

●       How does union with Christ make us more than conquerors through God’s love?  Discuss what it means in your life.

●       How do we apply the good news of this lesson to how we live our lives?  Give examples.

Romans 6:1-14 By Keeley Chorn

The Following Study and Audio are by Keeley Chorn, Young Women’s Bible Study. Press play on the player below to listen to this message. Or to download to your computer – On a PC right-click “download audio” and select “Save As Target.” On a Mac Ctrl+click “download audio” and choose “Download linked file as.”

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BELIEVERS ARE DEAD TO SIN, ALIVE TO GOD

Let’s begin tonight with a summary of what we’ve looked at so far in Romans…In the first week studying Rom 1-2, Ashley talked about Disconnected Religiosity, meaning our faith is not about how we outwardly look, whether we’re measuring up to being good and faithful Christians, but it’s what’s in your heart that matters and counts to God.  In the second week in Rom 3-4, Paul lays out the gospel message.  We saw that no one is righteous—we can’t follow God on our own, but we need God at the center of our lives.  God in his infinite love and grace towards us, brings us out of sin and makes us righteous by giving us Christ’s righteousness.  Ashley talked about living our lives as though we have been set free sin and then living in relationship to God.  This will also be the subject of today’s lesson.

Tonight we’re going to focus on Romans 5:20-6:14, but before we look at Rom 6, I want to point out some of the groundwork that Paul is laying in Ch. 5.  I’m only going to have time to briefly outline it here, so that we can get into Ch. 6, but Ashley’s lesson last week on Ch. 3 was also a great understanding of the groundwork of how God justifies believers.  If you didn’t hear it, I encourage you to go to her blog and listen to it.

The main point of Rom 5:1-11 is that the major mark of justified believers is joy, especially joy in God himself (Stott, The Message of Romans, 148).  What does it mean to be justified? Justification is a legal term.  It refers to the divine act where God makes those worthy of condemnation (he makes those people) acceptable before God’s self, who is holy and righteous. A sinner is pardoned from the punishment of sin, and brought into relat. w/ God by faith in God’s grace alone (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 69).  It is a legal act in which the truly guilty is pardoned and considered innocent, despite their guilt.  This is what God has done for those who believe in Christ.  This justification is the basis for Paul’s further arguments.

Next, in Rom 5:12-21, Paul’s main point is that man receives death by virtue of being in Adam, but receives life when joined in Christ.  Paul talks about the difference between death and life in this second half of Ch. 5.  First: death.  All men are in Adam, are in his death, and are in sin.  Paul lays out original sin here and in verse 12 notes that we all sinned in this act because Adam was the representative of all mankind, so we all partook of that sin and all received the sentence of death for it.  Second, he talks about life.  Many, that is, those who believe, are in Christ, are moved to life, are given Christ’s righteousness as their own, and are legally declared innocent: they are justified.  So Paul sets up an absolute contrast here: you are either left in Adam and in death, or you are taken out and brought into Christ and given life.  Paul carries this theme into Ch. 6 and builds on it, showing what this means for those who do believe.  So Ch. 5 is about all people, nonbelievers and then those who are in Christ and are believers.  But Ch. 6 is going to be specifically for those believers in Christ, those who have been taken out of life in Adam and in death, and who have been given true and eternal life.

Let’s preview the main point of Romans 6 (which is union with Christ means: dead to sin, alive to God).  Paul is going to talk about the current state of believers who are no longer dead, but who have life in Christ.  These believers are those who through faith have been united with Christ.  Paul is describing what has been called union with Christ and what it means.  There are two aspects to believers’ new state of union with Christ: first, they are dead to sin, and second, they are alive to God.  Let’s look at Romans 6 and how Paul paints this picture for believers.

Ch. 6 presents two sides of the same pressing question.  Our discussion of Romans 6 will focus on 6:1-14 as the question is addressed in the first part of ch. 6.

Read Romans 5:20-6:14

Verses 5:20-21 talk about grace reigning.  Paul has been explaining that the law made sin more evident than before the law, sin existed in the world, but until there were rules and names attached to the sins, they weren’t counted against man in the same way as once the law came; but where sin increased (under the law) God’s grace, his free and unmerited favor, his undeserved, unsolicited, and unconditional love, was ever more apparent in his forgiveness.  This comes to ultimate fulfillment in Jesus who moves us from the realm of law and death and into the realm of grace and life.  It is God’s grace, this free gift, that brought about our justification, our acquittal from our sins, our being declared righteous because of Christ.  So Paul makes the point that where there was sin, God’s grace was made ever more present and real because of his forgiveness of that sin.

In verses 1-5, we learn about union with Christ in his death and resurrection and what this means.

Verse 1: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul is answering his critics who think grace is cheap—just get it, then go on living life, but more importantly, why stop sinning if we get even more grace from God when our sins increase?  This question is natural if the gospel is being taught well.  God does freely forgive sins.  If so, why should we stop sinning?  Wouldn’t our further sinning just bring him more glory?  What is sinning?  Not just list of rules, but anything that takes you further from God.  Ashley told a story last week of the girl at Young Life camp, who had been hearing the gospel, but then wanted to know if we’re forgiven already for our sins and we can’t lose our salvation, why would we need to stop sinning? or to put it another way: why not keep on sinning if God keeps on forgiving?  This girl wasn’t the first to ask this question, and she won’t be the last.  For mature believers, it may sound like a silly question, but it’s so important, that Paul wrote about it to the Roman Christians, and we have his message today about how to answer that same question that will come up in our day and sometimes even in our own hearts.

Verse 2 gives the simple answer to the question of whether we should continue in sin; “By no means!” or some translations say: “may it never be!”; (J. B. Phillips: “What a ghastly thought!”) This phrase is the 2nd strongest way of negating something in the Bible.  Paul is clear that this way is not an option.  Paul then sums up what this new life of the believer is and why we can’t go on sinning: “we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Paul makes the assertion that we have died to sin, it is dead in our lives, dead. we should no longer live in it.  But how??

Now, my personal experience doesn’t seem to tell me I’m dead to sin, in fact, I seem alive to it, I’m tempted by it often, I fall into its traps, and a lot of times I’m not even aware of its presence in my life until I’m convicted by my anger or by snapping at my husband or by him or someone else confronting me with it.  Our immediate experience can’t teach us this cosmic truth.  We have to begin to understand just how full the plan of God is and just how big it is and how hard it is to even understand.  We must allow scripture to shape our understanding of who God is and to shape our experience.

So how can we be dead to sin?  Verse 3 says “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”  Our baptism is the means by which we are united to Christ.  An explanation about what Paul means by baptism here.  He is not saying that you are saved by baptism.  Faith is taken for granted in Paul’s argument.  Baptism and faith are inseparable for Paul’s argument: baptism is outward, faith inward.  Paul is referring to this dual event.  So for adults who made a profession of faith and then were baptized, this would be the normal experience, but for covenant children (like many raised in the Presbyterian church), the order is a little different.  The baptism of infants is into God’s family, making you a covenant child, you are promised to God, but only sealed with the holy spirit when you make a full commitment of faith.  It’s this moment that we become full children of God and this moment that we are considered truly baptized into Christ Jesus and his death.  So we see two things happening in this verse:  One, Jesus death occurred at a point in time.  And two, at our baptism/ conversion event, we enter into Christ’s own death.  The benefits of it (such as the defeat of death and sin) are applied or given to us.  So at our baptism/conversion, we enter into all that Christ’s death signified and accomplished.

So if our union with Christ happens at the time of our baptism and conversion event, what do verses 4 and 5 have to say about what the two aspects of our union might be?  Verses 4-5 talk about the two aspects of our union with Christ: we are dead to sin and alive to God.

Verse 4: “we were buried with him.” Did you hear that, Paul says we were buried in the tomb, with Jesus, have you ever thought of this? Why does he say this? “So that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life.” We have been given resurrection life.  How would we live our lives differently if we thought of ourselves as literally lying in the tomb with Jesus and being raised with him?  So, we are dead to sin and alive in God.  And it’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes this possible.  Romans 8:11 says: “If the Spirit of(A) him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies(B) through his Spirit who dwells in you.” It is the Holy Spirit that gives us this life which we received at the time point of our baptism/conversion event.

Verse 5: “If we have been united with him in a death like his” (and we have, that’s what verse 3 was saying), “we will also certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” We have a preview of what will happen to us—we have seen it in Jesus, it is possible because it has already happened, Paul isn’t just making this up.  Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our own.

Now, verses 6-7 discuss the first aspect of union with Christ: what our death means, the results of dying with Christ.

Verse 6: “for we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that this body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” So before our baptism and faith conversion, we were slaves to sin.  Last week, Ashley talked about Ch. 3, where Paul says “none is righteous, no, not one, no one seeks God, all have turned aside.., no one does good, not even one.”  Not even one!  What does it mean to be under the power of sin, or to be a slave to it?  Do we think of ourselves as having been slaves to something?  Probably not.  We think: I can do this or I can do that, I choose.  I could have pleased God if I tried, or if I didn’t break his rules, if I just live a good life, but we saw last week that no one could measure up, we need God to set us free from this.  When Paul talks about our old self being crucified, or this body of sin, he means the body that was in Adam (Ch. 5) that was in death.  This is what he means is put to death.   Our slavery to sin ended on the cross and when we entered into Christ’s death on the cross, which became our own at our baptism/conversion.  We moved in that moment from death to life (from a child of Adam, to a child of God). This is why people speak of being reborn: we died to the old way of life, where we were trapped in our old patterns, our old ways and methods, our own self-righteousness.

An analogy. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a British pastor of the previous century, spoke of the analogy of two fields.  There are two fields, one of which everyone is born into.  This field is dominated, controlled and run by Satan.  We are all born into this field by virtue of being sons of Adam and being sinners (Rom 5).  Next to this field is one loving controlled by God.  The wall between the two fields is so high that no one can scale them.  The only way to move from the field of Adam and into the field of God and Christ is to be lovingly picked up, by God, from the one field and transported into the other.  And once in God’s field, you obviously can’t climb back into the other sin-dominated one.  There is a shift in your status before God.  This is what effect is being described in Ch. 6.  Believers have been moved from the field of death into the field of life.  One can still hear the Tempter’s voice over the wall, and sometimes we even obey it, but because we are in this new field we are no longer obligated to obey the Tempter’s voice.  We are now God’s subjects and it is his voice that we obey.

Back to the passage, verse 7 answers why we should not be slaves to sin, because we can’t any longer, because we’ve died to it.  We’ve been “freed from sin.” We have been picked up and put in the new field in which sin no longer reigns. So verses 6-7 talk about what this death means to us.  It is a literal death to the old way of life, a death to being a child of Adam, a death to sin and to being controlled by sin; it is everything that Christ’s death on the cross meant.  Hear that statement: our death is everything that Christ’s death on the cross meant.  It is victory over sin because sin does not reign in us because we are dead to it.

A word about some extremes. We can’t assume that we no longer have a sin nature or aren’t tempted and pulled by it, and we can’t assume that because we are made new, that we will naturally live a pleasing life to God by just letting go and letting our new self take over.  Neither of these will work.

Verses 8-10 discuss the second aspect of union with Christ: what new life means: the results of being raised with Christ.

In verse 8, Paul reiterates some of what he’s previously said.  He says, “Now if we died with Christ,” which is true, he’s already said this in verses 2-4, so if this is true, and it is, “we believe we will also live with him.” This is similar to verse 4 and 5 which said: so we might walk in newness of life and be united also in his resurrection.  Paul is getting into the results of union with Christ that we have.

So in verse 9, Paul plays on because Christ died, and we died with him, he was raised from the dead, he cannot die again, death no longer has mastery over him, and so therefore, all these things are also true of us—we have been united with him in his resurrection, but we haven’t yet fully experienced this yet.  This is what we are waiting for, the ultimate and sure promise of God that he will bring us into full resurrection life, just as he already has for Christ, because we have been united to Christ.  This is what gives him the basis for saying we have been crucified with him and freed from sin, because we experience even now as we await Christ’s return, even now we experience what resurrection life looks like.  In our discussion groups tonight we’re going to look at instances of our own experience of this resurrection life, of moving from death to life, and if you’ve ever seen this work in your life.

Continuing in verse 10, Paul says “the life he lives, he lives to God.” Christ lives his life to God, not just because he is God, because when he became man, he became subject to death, just like we are, but on the cross, when he conquered death, it no longer held any power over him, and he is able to live every moment to God.  Paul wants us to know that we already have this exact same power.  We are united with Christ in this new life.  We are to live our lives to God, not to get bogged down in the sin of life.  Not to be tempted to do XYZ, and to do it, but to live.  To truly LIVE.  And living, means life given to God, life lived for God, love for God, following God, service to God…Because Christ is resurrected, he lives this life.  Because we too have this newness of life, this is what are lives are to look like.  But why don’t they then??

Let me tell you a story about they way I lived life when I first really started believing in the gospel after college.  My life didn’t change overnight.  I had always been a Christian, but I was just now starting to get what “the gospel” meant.  I was starting to understand that Christ’s death and resurrection weren’t just abstract events that had been so stripped of meaning that I just took them for granted.  The Bible wasn’t just a bunch of rules we followed because God said so.  I began to understand what it meant for Christ to hang on the cross just for me, just because he loved me.  I began to understand this.  So, I was learning all this and understanding it, but my life still hadn’t changed.  I lived in NYC and like most other New Yorkers, I was a partier.  I would go out 3-4 times a week, sometimes (well, most of the time) until 4 in the morning.  I would drink, look for guys, kiss guys, hope one of them would fall in love with me for who I was (but how could they when all they knew was the party side of me, which wasn’t what I wanted them to love …).  One day a friend familiar with Christianity, but not a believer, challenged me and said something to the effect of why I lived my life the way I did if I truly believed in God.  I offered some lame excuse to the extent of “Well, God forgives me for what I’m doing, and I’m not really sure everything I’m doing is wrong.”  I knew that God had offered me unconditional grace and forgiveness and he would keep forgiving me, but I hadn’t yet realized that he had offered and given me so much more.  This is what Romans 6 is about.  He had given me the way to change and he had given me new life.  I just couldn’t see it.  But my friend’s question really stuck with me.  It challenged me and it challenged the way I was living.  It made me start to do some reevaluating and soul-searching about the difference in being forgiven and in living life for God…

So, verses 11-14 talk about how do we live this way?  How do we put our new status into action?

Verse 11, “In the same way” (the same way!), “count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 7:4 says the point of our union with Christ is so that we may bear fruit for God.  “The major secret of holy living is in the mind…We are to recall, to ponder, to grasp, to register these truths until they are so integral to our mindset that a return to the old life is unthinkable.” (Stott, The Message of Romans, 180)

Verse 12: “do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”– don’t let it rule you or control you; we don’t have to obey sin or its desires.  Sure, sin is a strong tempter, and it can be fun, but ultimately it leads to separation from God and others, it leads to alienation, and this is just what Christ came to get rid of.  Why do we keep going back to sin when Christ has already brought us to him?  This question really brings out the Christian struggle…

Verse 13: “do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life,” and “offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” There is a contrast of loyalty: are you offering yourself to sin or to God, to wickedness or to righteousness?  If you’re still offering yourself to sin, is it because you don’t understand that you have moved from darkness to light?  We’re also going to talk in our groups about this: what changes we need to make.  This will be one of the questions, always feel free to come talk to me or Ashley if you still don’t understand.

Finally, in verse 14, Paul says, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” So sin is not our master, “thanks be to God” (Rom 6:17).  We are no longer under law, but we’re under grace in Christ Jesus.

Here is how we apply this message: So living our lives out in light of our union with Christ means that:  One, we must recognize who we truly are, not who you feel like you are: we are dead to sin, we have died with Christ, our loyalties have already changed—we need to see them this way; we must change our mindset.  Two, we must recognize what our true state is: alive to God and dead to sin, no longer in Adam but now in Christ, living in his death and resurrection.  Three, we must change the way we live. Paul gives these commands to the believers, because he knows the power of sin and that they will be tempted to fall back to its power until they can understand their new life (and even then it will always be a struggle), but they must “count themselves dead to sin,” “not let it reign or rule,” and they must not “offer themselves to sin”- these are all active statements about what we must do.  I love the passage in 1 Cor 10:13 where God says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” We first recognize who we truly are and what our real state is, then we live this way by God’s power

A note: we also must recognize the power of sin in this world. Just because we have died with Christ and are dead to sin does not mean that we won’t ever be tempted again, or that if we act as if sin doesn’t exist then it won’t, or that we won’t fall, stumble, and forget, but this is where God’s grace and forgiveness come in.  Sin and Satan are very powerful.  He wouldn’t be called the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the ruler of this world (Jn 12:31) (as opposed to the ruler of all creation), or the powers, world forces of darkness, spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph 6:12).  But thanks be to God that we are no longer subjects of him, but we are subjects of a most merciful ruler, king, and God, the one who came to die on our behalf, to rescue us from the pull of these forces.  We have moved from death to life, so we should live this way.

Now in my own story, I began to experience this change from death to life.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but God used this friend’s question in my life to make me question the way I was living.  Who was I living for?  Myself? or God?  I was living as if I could keep on sinning so that God’s grace could increase in my life.  I didn’t know then what life lived to God really looked like and I didn’t know how to live it either.  But God pursued me.  Over time, my life did begin to change.  I would wake up with a crazy hangover on a Saturday and lie there all day, but the Holy Spirit would nudge me saying, this isn’t the way God wants you to live your life.  You know this, why do you keep doing this?  Eventually, that thought became so forceful, that after a series of bad incidents, I ended up giving up alcohol altogether.  I joked with friends saying, “

Well, I wasn’t very good at drinking,” but the truth was that God was working in me to show me what a clear-headed life looked like, and from there I began to realize more his love for me, and his support for me in that transition time.  God was working, as my mindset was changing, to move me from a life of death to one of life.  To one that more truly reflects what it means to be “alive to God” (I want to make the point that I’m not saying alcohol is bad, but the way I was using it in my life was bad.)

Looking back on the girl’s question in Ashley’s story: why don’t we keep sinning? Because that would betray everything about who we now are. It would be foolish and contrary to God’s love.  Why would we even want to stay in the way of life from which Christ has delivered us?

What are some practical ways that you and I can change our mindset? We must recognize sin in our life.  We must repent.  We must ask God and his Holy Spirit to further convict us of where we are living our life separate from God.  And with repentance, we must hold onto the promises of God.  Romans 6 is a promise of God.  He promises to give you life and he tells us that we already have glimpses of that fullness even now.  We must remind ourselves of these promises, pray these promises, teach them to ourselves, read the passage over and over thinking about where our life needs change.  Ask believers who you trust for feedback.  Most importantly, we must acknowledge our dependence on God for this change.  If we continue in this way, know that God is faithful.  He will convict us, he will remind us of his promises, he will remind us of who we truly are, he will help us change, and he will produce true life.

To close and summarize again how we live out our lives in light of Romans 6, I’m going to quote John Stott who puts it this way: “We should constantly be reminding ourselves who we are.  We need to learn to talk to ourselves, and ask ourselves questions: ‘Don’t you know? Don’t you know the meaning of your conversion and baptism? Don’t you know that you have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection?…Don’t you know these things? Don’t you know who you are?’ We must go on pressing ourselves with such questions, until we reply to ourselves: ‘Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.’” (Stott, The Message of Romans, 187)

Questions for Discussion & Application:

1.     How have you seen the resurrection power of Jesus in your life?  Have you?

2.     What changes do you need to make in your thinking to live in this way?  What changes in your life?  Be specific.