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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God’s Love for Us

Translating the Gospel to Our Lives

Part 1: God’s Love for Us

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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 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.