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South Fellowship Church

Reign In 2015 Part 2

January 11th 2015listen to last Sundays musicRomans 6:1-14 – What’s the secret of living the Christian life? Many people search their whole life and never find the answer to that question. They default to trying harder and doing more, but it never seems to yield the joy and life that the scriptures promise. In this passage, the Apostle Paul gives us scripture’s answer to that all important question.

A few years ago, I think it was 2005 or 2006, around Christmastime, we had a really big snow—a few feet, you may remember.  My father-in-law and I were headed down to the store to just get some of the necessities.  As we were driving down to the store, which wasn’t all that far of a drive for us, we encountered a number of people who had sorta slid off the road.  He had a big truck and we were helping people sorta get out of the predicament that they had found themselves in.  We got into the parking lot where we were going and there was another car that was stuck.  It was a Jeep.  Nothing against Jeeps, as you’ll hear in just a moment……we went over to the car and talked to the woman who was inside.  We said, “Hey, what’s the problem?”  She said, “Well, I’m stuck.”  My father-in-law looked in, he had a Jeep too, and said, “Well, have you tried putting it into 4-wheel drive?”  And she says, kid you not, “I didn’t know I had 4-wheel drive!!”  And we said, “Well, we can’t help you then.  Why don’t you just pray and we’ll see you later.”  So here’s what we did….we just opened the driver’s side door, had her put it into park, pulled it into 4-wheel drive and she was off!!!  Praise be to God!  And we were heroes!  Right? She was like, “You guys are amazing!”  “Uh, no, your car’s just wired for this, m’am.  Maybe why you bought a Jeep, I don’t know.  Could come in handy another time.”

I think a lot of us live this Christian life in a real spin.  And maybe, just maybe, we don’t know we have 4-wheel.  I think there are a lot of Christians I talk to, a lot of followers of the way of Jesus, who, when we start to unpack and we start to really talk about what are the things that God has designed and wired and invited us to do and become and believe, in order to be free in the way that He longs us to be free.  There’s just a lack of awareness of what the Scriptures actually really teach about walking with Jesus.

Last week, we made the point that God doesn’t just want us to survive 2015He wants us to THRIVE.  He longs for us to become alive to the work of the Spirit in our life and to not just get through the year, but to thrive. We said last week—I don’t know if you’re programmed like me—-you start to make a list of things at the beginning of the year that you want to do and that you want to be and that you want to accomplish.  I’d love to be a better dad; I’d love to be a better father; I want to be a better pastor; I just wanta be a better person in general, right? And so we start to make these lists and we start to plan.  What I did last week is point us back to Romans chapter 5, one of the most theologically dense chapters in the entire Scripture.  And I wanted to invite us, before we start to strive into the new year, to simply stand in the truth of the Gospel.  I think that standing in the truth of the Gospel is, as GI Joe said, half the battle.  It’s probably more than half the battle. But here is the truth that we sorta circled around last week—every single boy, girl, grandma, grandpa, my mom, your mom, your husband (and you’re like I KNOW my husband was in Adam!), Mother Teresa—every single person that has ever walked the face of the planet, Romans chapter 5 is gonna say that they were born into Adam.  They were born into sin.  They were born into what Paul describes in Romans chapter 5 as the “reign of death.”  This is why you could turn on the news and the world is an extremely painful place to live.

But the truth of the matter is that for followers of Jesus, faith in Christ, when we put faith in Jesus we are placed IN Jesus!  And what the Scriptures say is that no longer do we live under the reign of death, but we live under the reign of life.  This free gift of God given by faith, and ONLY by faith, not by ritual, not by performance, not by what you can do for Jesus, but by what He’s already done for you, that by faith we are placed into HIM!  Praise be to God!!  So every single person that has faith in Jesus is placed INTO Jesus, we get His righteousness freely—it’s given to us.  Our relationship with God is mended, is made whole.  When we have faith in Him, the Scriptures say we have PEACE with God, we stand in GRACE, and we live under the weight of His divine LOVE!  WOW!!

So you may have walked away from last week going, “Well, that’s great, Paulson. That doesn’t solve the problem! I still agree with what the Apostle Paul wrote.  This is still the narrative of my life! I don’t understand my own actions!”  For I do not do what I want.  The list you have going? You just can’t accomplish it!  Anybody already mess up one of their New Year’s resolutions?  Willing to stand in front of you and say, “I made enough of them to miss a few already?”  Yeah!  I don’t do what I want to do, {and he goes on to say} but I do the very thing that I hate!  Maybe this is all true, but how do we make it work?  We talked about where we stand and indeed, that’s more than half the battle, but this morning I want to talk about how do we make life in Christ work?  What’s our part??  I don’t know if you’ve read through the New Testament.  There’s a fair number of commands in there!  Right?  Like a fair number of hey, do this or hey, don’t do this!!  Where does that fit?  The question when I preach the grace the Scriptures talk about that I always get is “don’t you think you’re taking it a little bit too far?”  Because if we continue to preach grace, and I’ve had people in my office, hey, if we continue to preach grace isn’t just gonna give people a free license to just do whatever they want?  Well, that’s a great question and you know what?  If we’re asking that question, can I just confirm to you, we’re understanding the argument Paul’s making.  Because he anticipates us asking that question.  So if we DON’T ask that question maybe we haven’t taken grace far enough.  So if we don’t ask the question are we taking this too far? my proposal to you would be we haven’t taken it far enough!

Listen to where the Apostle Paul teaches the Roman church AFTER he said that by faith you’re saved, you’re redeemed, you’re put in Christ, and He’s given you His righteousness and He LONGS for you to reign in life.   Listen to what he says.  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound?  Since this is true, since we’re in Christ–by faith we’ve been put in him—signed, sealed, delivered, justified, standing holy before the throne of God, should we just go ahead and do whatever we want?  So, in light of last week, now that we stand in grace and we live in peace and we live under love, should we just go and continue to do whatever we want?  Paul says by no means in verse 2. In the Greek, it’s this emphatic, the word is ‘μὴ γένοιτο, MAY IT NEVER BE!!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  There’s something that happened in the very core of who you are when you’re transferred from Adam to Jesus by faith—something happened in yousomething is transformed in you.  You DIED to the sin that used to hold you captive!  So how could it reign if you’re dead to it?!  We’re going to unpack that a little bit more, but listen to the way he goes on. He says Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized {meaning not water baptism here, but just associated with; this is baptized into Christ—we’re in Him} those who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? we were buried therefore with him by baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too {or you also} might walk in newness of life. 

So again, he’s going to hit this theme. You weren’t designed to just exist in 2015.  You weren’t designed to just make it.  You were designed to walk in the NEWNESS of this beautiful life that Jesus LONGS for you to grasp onto and LONGS for you to walk in for your joy and for His glory.

So I’ve been around church a long time and usually this is where we get into Alright, here’s three things you need to do!  Right?  And all of them are based around Try a little bit harder; Do a little bit more; Strive, strive, strive……and you can just see the writing on the wall!  Right?  You’re like, alright, I’m gonna take these notes, but I know I’m gonna blow it!  So before we get to the four things, you’re going, there’s four blanks here, Paulson, I know you’re coming at me with something!!  So before we get there, I want to go big picture and teach you what the Scriptures say about walking in the newness of life.

How do we do this??  Because first and foremost, it starts not with a to-do list, but a mind change!  A mind shift!  Skip down with me to verse 14—maybe my favorite passage of Scripture in the whole Bible or maybe better said, the passage of Scripture in the Bible that’s brought the most freedom to my life.  This is what Paul says to the Roman church.  Want to know how to walk in newness of life?  He says this For sin will have no dominion  exert dominion over you, since you are not under Law , but under grace .   What a beautiful statement!!

So the question becomes, how do we measure our life?  Is our life measured by the things that we’ve accomplished?  The do’s and don’ts, the sin that we have, by the strength of our own will power, weeded out of our life.  That’s fighting under Adam.  Is that the measuring stick of our life?  A lot of people view the 4-wheel drive of Christianity as try harder, do more, pull up your bootstraps, get to work!  OR is the measuring stick of our life I’m a child of God under His divine favor, a subject of grace and mercy??

Here’s the ironic piece of what Paul’s saying. He’s saying there’s two paths in front of you.  You can continue to live under Adam or you can live in Jesus.  You can go live under law—that that’s the banner that’s over your life, and then you can either be prideful or devastated.  One of the two, but there’s probably no in between. Or you can live under the beauty and hope and joy of His grace!  There’s two ways, and the one that actually produces fruit in the life of the believer.  This is a practical teaching!  It’s couched in theology, but it’s extremely practical.  You want to make progress in your life?   You want 2015 to be different?  It’s not about ritual.  It’s not about performance.  It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts that’s gonna make you productive in the new year.  It’s not if you were productive in the last year, it’s not a list of to-do’s and don’ts that you did that year either.  It was recognizing the Scriptures say you’re under grace, not under law.  It’s different, isn’t it?  It’s different than what I grew up thinking and I grew up in the church, but this is a real practical teaching by the Apostle Paul.  I love the way that John Stott says it.  He says this, ” Knowing we are under grace and not under law is the ultimate secret {so shhhhh!} of freedom from sin.”    You want to walk in the joy of Jesus? Walk in His grace.

Here’s the thing—because we always worship our way into sin, and we worship our way out. So the heart captivated by grace is a worshipping heart that keeps Jesus at the center and starts to transform us.  And it’s not about what can I do? what can I do? what can I do?  It’s about oh my gosh, look at what He’s done! look at what He’s done! look at what He’s done!  And then you look at the wake of your life and as you live with this awe of the grace of God at the forefront of your mind, the wake of your life starts to look like love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and self-control, right?  Ever wonder why they call it FRUIT of the spirit?  And not WORKS of the spirit?

We used to live in a place in southern California where there were some vineyards there.  I never walked through the vineyard and heard “uhhhhnnhh!  Let’s do this!!”  No!  It’s this let’s be connected to the vine, who’s connected to the source of life. That’s our job!  It’s the 4-wheel drive of Christianity.  But it takes a completely different perspective.  So here’s what I want to do for the next 15 minutes.  I want to unpack how do we walk in the RHYTHMS OF THIS GRACE?

What I want to do is go back to where we left off in chapter 6 and just unpack all the verses that lead up to verse 14 where Paul drops this theological bomb on us—that actually the way to be free from sin is not by trying harder and realizing all the do’s and don’ts, but to realize the banner that covers our life is grace.  Here’s how he says this works itself out and how to make it a reality.  Verse 5: For if we have been united with Christ {Here‘s what he’s saying: you’re in the Jesus tupperware.} If we have been united (with Christ) with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him a resurrection like his. {Great news, yes?! Amen!} We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. 

Just a quick time-out here.  Many, many Christians, they’re driving and they’re going along with Paul, and you get here and you’re like there’s no way that can be true.  What he just said was your old nature is crucifiedit’s dead.  It’s sorta like Princess Bride dead, ok?!  Not like totally dead!  So read rendered powerless, unless you give it it’s power back!  How do we do that?  Well, a lot of times we do it by going there’s no way that’s true.

brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  {That’s great news, right?} For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. So here’s his whole point—you’re with Christ!  So how do we walk in the freedom he designed for us?  How do we walk in the grace he designed for us? Not under law, but under law.  Here’s what we do—first thing we recognize is that we’re with Him.  YOU ARE IN HIM!  Right now!  Do you know that the Scriptures say in Ephesians chapter 2 that you’re seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Sometimes the Scriptures are gonna use this word “remain”, sometimes they’ll use the word “abide”.  You might remember Jesus teaching the disciples in John 15 and he says this, “Abide in me and I in you.”  So as you set the disposition of your soul towards a loving Father, as you learn to cultivate throughout your day this awareness of His presence and His goodness and His love, He abides with you.  Have you ever met somebody like that?  Where the presence of Jesus is just all over them?

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)  He goes that’s the way I’ve wired you, that’s the way I programmed you.  In order to walk in life and bear the fruit of life, you need to be connected to the Author of Life.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)  He’s saying that the secret to all of life is to recognize that by the divine favor of a gracious Father, by faith you have been placed in Him.  I love the way that Jesus goes on to describe this. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. (John 15:9)  So in the same way that Jesus is loved by His Father, you are loved by Jesus!  And let’s close in prayer, right? Then he gives us this beautiful invitation: So abide in my love.  It’s this picture of learn to make this your center, learn to make this your home, learn to make the love of God where you lay your head at night and where you get up in the morning.  Learn to cultivate an awareness of this favor that flows from the throne of heaven, and as you do that sin will no longer be your master, because you’ll recognize you’re under grace, not under law.  REMAIN in me, he says.  ABIDE in my love.  So maybe in 2015 you learn how to do that a little bit better.  Maybe learn to cultivate this awareness, a prayerfulness that’s not just God help me to do this and God help me not do that; or God, please, please, please do this.  But maybe our prayer life starts with God, allow me to abide in the love that flows from your throne.  Let me RECOGNIZE it. Let me make my home in it.  Let it be where I wake up and where I go to sleep.

Great Puritan author, John Owen, wrote this: “If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. {So he says this is the secret.  It’s being connected to your Father.} Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: {So he’s gonna say, pray this!} ‘God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.’ When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us.  We will remain free while others lie in bondage.”  So maybe this year we cultivate this prayerful awareness and abide in the love of our Father.

Verse 11 Paul continues, he says, So you also must consider yourselves dead {It’s this idea of reckon that you’re dead.  Remind yourself that you’re dead.  Tell yourself that you’re dead. Now, that, if we were to just pull it out of this sermon, could make a really interesting Youtube clip, right?  Remind yourself you’re dead.  Tell yourself you’re dead.  Wake up in the morning and declare your death. That’s what he’s saying.} ….consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  So we REMAIN. Here’s the second thing we do:  we REMEMBER.

We remember that we’re dead to sin. We remember that when Jesus died, because of faith in him, when he died we died with him.  And when he was raised, we were raised with him.  But here’s the thing!  That is a slippery truth, is it not?  And often times, we go I’m just powerless!  I really can’t live any differently.  So our inner dialogue, the narrative that we start to believe and we start to function in, is well, I’ve never seen that and I’ve never experienced that, therefore it’s not true!  May I propose to you that you’ve never seen it and you’ve never experienced it because you’re convinced it’s not true!  Because of your faith in Jesus, you’ve been placed in Christ and the ONLY power sin has in your life is the power you GIVE TO IT!  So I’d suggest that maybe you start an inner dialogue with sin that personifies sin a little bit. “Oh, you want me to do THAT, Sin?  I don’t think so!”  “I’m sorry, you want me to go look at that with my eyes?  No, my eyes aren’t for you anymore, Sin. I’ve died to you and I’m alive to Jesus.”  “You want me to go there in my mind?  I’m unwilling to go there.” “You want me to lie to just look a little bit better? I don’t need to do that anymore!”  Maybe you just start with this inner dialogue of reminding yourself I don’t need to, sin doesn’t have that power over me to control me. Actually, any power sin has in my life is the power I freely give it.  So Paul goes hey, remind yourself of that! You’re not only Christian, you’re not only free from the presence of sin.  Sorry, from the PUNISHMENT of sin.  You’re also free from the power of sin.  You’re free from the punishment of sin, yes.  And I think most followers of Jesus believe that.  But what this passage is teaching is that you’re also free from the power of sin in your life.

I read an article this week.  It was about an 89-year-old couple, Victor and Thelma.  They’re Canadian and won the Canadian lottery.  It was over seven million Canadian dollars at the age of 89!  Of course, the news loves this so they bring them in and they do this interview with them.  Thelma and Victor sit down and here was their declaration to the reporter.  They said we’re really too old to change the way we live all that much. We’re going to stay in the house that we have retired in.  They said, “We are gonna do a few things a little bit differently though.”  Victor pipes in, “I’m gonna get a Lincoln Town Car.”  And Thelma looks at the reporter and goes, “And I’m gonna get a new pair of nylons!”  I like to think at that point Victor looked at her and went, “Hhhuuuhh?” I’m going seven million dollars and they’re going to do next to nothing with it!

I wonder what you’d do with the gift God’s put in front of you?! I think alot of our Christian life looks a little bit like Thelma and Victor.  Where you go there’s so much you can do and you’re going to do NOTHING!  This battle rages right here.  So here’s what Paul says to this church, to you and to me.  He says, Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, {as if you have the ability to do that} to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. (Rom. 6:12-13)  Here’s where you sorta get into this nitty-gritty of what do we actually do?! Well, we determine and RESOLVE to live under the grace and mercy of God in such a way where we remind ourselves we’re dead to sin, and we remind ourselves I don’t have to walk down that pathway anymore.  I don’t have to look at that on the internet anymore.  I don’t have to lash out against my kids anymore.  I don’t have to…..fill in the blank….I don’t have to go there anymore! And Paul says you DON’T have to go there anymore, so don’t go there anymore.  But not a legalistic if I go there then…..but a grace-driven I’m free because of what God has given me to walk in life under the reign of life, not under the reign of death!  I’m free!

So the question becomes how do we fight?  What does your inner dialogue look like when sin crouches at your door and knocks on it?  Is your inner dialogue well, this is just sorta the family I was raised in.  These are the decisions I’ve made.  This is the pattern I’ve set up and I really can’t get out of it.  That’s Adam-thinking.  Or is your thinking I’m free?!  I’m free by the grace of God.  I’m covered, I’m holy, I’m spotless, I’m blameless; and maybe even in the back of your mind you go and even if I walk down this road none of that changes.  Which, ironically, makes you want to walk down that road less–if you really get it.  How do you fight?  In the Scriptures they say fight in Christ. Believe the Gospel.  This is how you fight.  And then, don’t offer your body to something that’s going to rob you of life.  The grace and mercy of Jesus has done enough to provide a way out.  Ok, so this is why we’re passionate about a thriving Celebrate Recovery ministry here.  We believe that that’s a difficult transition to make.  And it’s not just try harder.  But it’s surround yourself with the goodness of the Gospel and allow Jesus to work in you in such a way where you start to walk in a way where you reign in life, not where you reign in death.

Finally, here’s what he says.  He finishes, and we’ll finish here too. Don’t present your members (your body) to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but {so the contrast to that} present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  So you could walk down that path and present yourself to sin and death.  But why would you do that, he goes.  Why would you walk away from the Author of Life?  No, no, no!  Instead of walking away from him, walk TO him. So this is an invitation.  Many times when the Bible says don’t do this, it will give you an opposite thing to replace it with.  That’s the way our soul’s wired.  We don’t just stop doing things, we replace it with something better. So he says don’t present the members of your body to sin, but to righteousness and that will make your heart come alive.  The antidote to sin, to presenting the members of your body to sin is…..WORSHIP!  Present yourself to God!  And that’ll start to enliven your soul to the point where sin starts to lose its flavor.  Start to lose it’s taste a little bit.  Like the person that goes to Ruth’s Chris (Steak House) and sits down to a beautiful dinner and digs in.  Sorry, but the chuckwagon beef from the grocery store just isn’t going to taste the same after that.  But he says I want to change your palate to where you stop settling for garbage and start pursuing glory.  It’s way better.

So he says this REVERE–worship.  To REMAIN we abide in Jesus.  We REMEMBER that we’re dead to sin.  We RESOLVE hey, sin, I’m not walking with you, I’m walking with Jesus. Then we lift high the name of Jesus in our life as we present ourselves to him, our spiritual act of worship.  And this creates sort of a pattern in our life. As we submit to Him (God), he starts to feed us, he starts to grow us, he starts to enliven us and we start to say you know what, sin doesn’t look quite as good as it used to.  Not because we’re trying harder, but because Jesus is THAT GOOD!  Jesus is that good!  I just want to remind you, one of the rhythms of my day that’s helpful is instead of starting my day on Facebook and all sorts of different options I have—the newspaper or whatever—I try to start my day saying to God, “God, I’m giving myself to you today.”  Sort of these four things we just talked about in abbreviated prayer.  Jesus, help me remain in you; help me remember I’m dead to sin. If I fall into sin it’s by choice, not because I had to.  Jesus, help me to present myself to you and then help me to see you at every corner of my day.  May my day be stamped by your presence and my heart be convicted in worship the entire day.  One of these things that helps me is this little acronym “R.E.S.T.”   READ the Scriptures; ENGAGE the text; SIT with Jesus; TRUST and obey.  It’s a way we teach people to study the Scriptures here that keeps Jesus at the center.  Because if we keep Jesus at the center, we’ll keep worship at the center.  And if we keep worship at the center, we’ll worship our way into walking in the way that Jesus did.

Here’s the way to summarize this passage.  Walking in grace + abiding in love = bearing his fruit!  Will you look up at me for just a second?  For sin will have no dominion {power, authority, hook} over you, since you are no longer under law but under (the beautiful waterfall of) grace.  And in a practical way, that makes all the difference in the world!

Let’s pray.  So, loving Father, we ask that you would help us remain in your love.  Help us to remember, Jesus, what you have done on our behalf.  That you’ve freed us from the slave master of sin.  You’ve brought us into life through Jesus.  Would you help us walk in that?  In a real practical way to resolve to say I’m not walking the path of death anymore, I’ve had enough death in my life already.  But, Jesus, for your glory and my joy, because it’s the way you wired me and you are the Author of Life, I’m walking with you.  And Jesus, as we do that, may our hearts well up with worship to the point that we are changed people.  All for your glory.  And all God’s people said…..Amen.

 

 

Reign In 2015 Part 22019-02-18T00:43:30-07:00

Reign In 2015

January 4th 2015listen to the music from this weekRomans 5:1-17

 Kelly and I and the kids had a chance to get away a little bit after Christmas.  My in-laws live outside of Vail and we took the kids ice skating at Beaver Creek.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been ice skating with kids before.  There’s a way I used to measure successful ice skating and that was just sorta how much fun we had and whether or not we came home with some bruises.  The way you measure success with little kids is did anybody die?  The answer is no!  Praise the Lord nobody died!  It’s also, and I’m just gonna be honest, not quite as much fun to ice skate when you’re holding a little clumsy four-year-old up!  It just isn’t.  In fact, one time we’re skating around and I was holding Ethan’s hand and he looks up at me and he says, “Dad!  This ice is really slippery!!”  “Yes, son!  It is!”   I have this picture in my mind of us ice skating and it’s of Kelly holding both of Avery’s hands and they’re sorta up above her head and she is just doing the reverse running man on the ice.  Doing her best job of trying to injure herself pretty severely.  And Kelly is there holding her up.  It turns for four- and five-year olds, ice skating isn’t the easiest thing in the world.  I wasn’t expecting my son to be Scott Hamilton or Peter Forsberg, but……I was expecting a little bit more than I saw — I gotta be honest!  I have this picture in my head of Avery screaming…….

As I thought about New Year’s resolutions over the last few days, I think that’s the way 2014 looked a little bit for me.  I don’t know about you.  I don’t know how your 2014 looked.  But I did something really dangerous.  I sat down to write out some goals that I have for the coming year.  I just want to say I think it’s a good thing, I think it’s a healthy thing, to take some assessment of our lives and to see, “Alright Lord, where are you sorta pressing me and leading me into the future?”  Anybody New Year’s resolution goal setters?  None of you.  Either you’re lying or you’re not that introspective.  Either way you’re in trouble.  So shame on you!!  I think this time of year is a great time to reevaluate where my life is at, where your life is at, where it’s heading and to pray to God, “What kind of person do you want me to continue to become?”  I think it’s a real healthy good thing to ask that question.

I also think that this is potentially one of the most dangerous times of the year for those who follow Jesus. Here’s my tendency.  I’m going to try to be a better husband, a better father, a better preacher.  I’m going to try to sin less and give more. I’m going to try, try, try, TRY, TRY……  And here’s what I start to do.  I start to reach down and sorta pull up my own boot straps and my New Year’s resolutions list is really my own personal self-improvement and what I can do to make my life a little bit better.  Anyone an Amen?!

Here’s the tendency.  We try to do that.  We try really hard! And about a week into the year, we find ourselves ice skating!  I can’t seem to quite get the traction I wanted to get.  I had this goal of going and exercising five days a week and I’m into week one.  So I’m going to reevaluate that goal and I think one day a week’s a good goal!! And hey, instead of losing 10 pounds, I think I’m going to gain 10!  Maybe make it twenty just to challenge myself!!  Right??!!  I’m going to check FaceBook a little bit more.  I can nail that one!  Read less books than I read last year. We’re just skating!  We start to think and reevaluate life and how DO we really make progress.  I think the words of Apostle Paul to Rome maybe ring true for you as they do for me.  He says this—he talks about this predicament we find ourselves in as humans.  He says, “For I do not understand my own actions.”  Have you ever had that conversation looking in the mirror?  You just have that conversation with yourself and you go, “Paulson, why do you keep doing what you’re doing?”  My guess is you don’t say that while you’re looking in the mirror.  Unless, I’m looking over your shoulder, which is really creepy.  Then you should ask, “Paulson, why are you doing………”  But you ask yourself, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

“For I do not do what I want.”  Do you ever look back at last year’s resolutions?  Anybody like me that have a few that fall in that category?  Didn’t do what I want.  Didn’t do what I planned.  I’ll do better this coming year. You know how I know that doesn’t work?  You tried it last year!  Right?  Like if New Year’s resolutions worked, wouldn’t we be done making them after a year?  “For I do not do what I want, but the very thing I do, I hate.” Ever have that conversation with yourself?  Where life just feels like you’re just slipping and skating??  Here’s our tendency.  The clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, and I start to dream about what does 2015 look like.  Here’s the things I’m going to do; here’s the things I’m going to accomplish; here’s what I’d love to see happening in the church; God, I’m praying into these things!  And I just sensed as I started to go there that the Holy Spirit said to me, “Would you settle down a little bit?  Would you just settle down? And just pause.  Just take a time out.”  And I want to invite you to do the same thing this morning.  Before we run into 2015, maybe we just hit the pause button and remember where we STAND before we start to run!  

I want to remind us to stand before we start to run because it’s hard to build a firm foundation on slippery ground.  And if start in the wrong place, we’re never going to end up where God longs for us and intends for us to end up.  So I want to give us some tools this morning that have been life giving for me.  My hope, my prayer over the next two weeks is that the tools will be life giving for you.  At the end of this morning, you may ask the question, “Then Paulson, what are we suppose to DO?”  If you ask that question as you walk out of here, I’ve done my job. Just know that. Then come back next week and I’ll unpack that.  I just want to unpack for us TODAY, where we stand because we need to know where we stand before we start to run.

Romans chapter 5.  That’s where I want to camp out this morning.  Romans chapter 5 is where we’re going to land and really start to unpack one of the MOST theologically dense passages in the entire New Testament, I’m convinced.  Now, the book of Romans….the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome.  In the first three chapters of this letter, he really has one message:  Everybody’s in trouble!  Theologically….the word is “condemned” or “under the wrath of God” because of sin.  That’s the first three chapters…..happy New Year….glad you came today!!  Okay?  At the end of chapter three, he (Paul) starts to lead out of that and he starts to paint a bright picture of a hope that we have because of the work of Jesus.  So here’s the way the book works in Romans–Paul will visit a concept then sorta circle back to it later on; visit a concept, circle back to it; visit a concept, circle back to it.  Chapter 5, the second part is one of his “circle back” to this big idea of we were all in absolute desperate trouble and Jesus rescued us.  Romans, chapter 5, starting in verse 12: He says, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, {and that one man, we’re going to find out as the verses go on, is Adam.  He’s referring back to Adam and Eve, Genesis chapters one, two and three.  So Adam and Eve are created perfect, holy, righteous in relationship to God and they say to God, “No thank you! We’re going to do it our own way!} sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and death through sin.”  So death is never God’s idea. Death is the result of sin.  Romans chapter 5 (Should be GENESIS?) clearly says that God created Adam and Eve perfect, holy.  THEY sinned, death came into the world through sin, and death spread to all men or all people because ALL sin.  I want to give you a picture of what Paul is saying here.  It’s like I said, the concept is very theologically dense, but here’s essentially what Paul says.  Every single person that you ever met, was born into Adam.  They were born into sin.  Theologians will call this “original sin”, but really all that it means is that every single person that you’ve ever met SINS!!  Your mom–born in Adam.  My wife {sorry, baby} — born in Adam.  Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr.—-both, born in Adam.  Gandhi—born in Adam.  Everybody you’ve ever met—born in Adam!  {And your wife, too, okay?}  Here’s what Paul says, you know this, because you try to do things you want to do, you just can’t do them.  He’s going to go on and say in this realm, under Adam you’re born into this “death reigns”.  So you look back with pain and regret; you turn on the news and you go, “Man, there’s just a lot of messed up things going on in the world right now.”  Right?  Because we were born into Adam and his bad decision and our bad decisions, too and that’s what reigned.  Death reigned in us!  Everybody you’ve ever met—that’s at least where they start.  He continues though.  Cause that would be really bad news if it wasn’t met with this BUT that begins verse 15. But the free gift is not like the trespass.  So here’s what Paul’s gonna do—he’s gonna set up for us this contrast.  This contrast between Adam, the first man, and Jesus, the ultimate man.  Adam—where there’s condemnation and Jesus—-where there’s righteousness.  And he’s gonna say there’s a lot of similarities between these two things.  They both come through one person, but he’s also gonna say there’s also some differences.  One of them being is that what came through Adam is not NEARLY as powerful as what comes through Jesus.

So there’s similarities and there’s also differences.  The differences are pointed out by this phrase:  Much more. But the free gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through one man’s trespass, {that man is Adam} much more have the grace of God and the free gift of grace by that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  This is great news to start a year off with. Here’s what it says.  Even though you were born into Adam, what Jesus did is He made a new way of living and being possible.  Now if you go to the book of Romans, you’re going to realize and recognize that the way that you’re transferred out of Adam and into Christ is simply by faith!  So over and over and over again in this chapter, you’re going to see the word “gift”.  This free gift, verse 15; free gift, verse 16.  All you do, your part in this, is you just put faith in Christ.  And then you’re transferred out of Adam and into Jesus.  Listen to the way he goes on.  Verse 16: And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.  For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation…  So he goes, hey, all it took was one sin for you to be condemned.  You know that that’s true when you drive and get caught speeding; you can’t say to the cop, “Well, I’ve done really good the other days.”  He (the cop) is like, “Bravo!!  Here’s a ticket…and a plaque.  Feel free to hang it up!”  No! But the FREE gift—so it’s not like that—the FREE gift following many trespasses brought justification.  So he goes, as many sins as you committed in Adam, ALL of them have been forgiven in Jesus.  So he’s painting this picture for us.

He goes on. Verse 17: For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace {Just a quick time out.  We’re not going down a path of universalism, where we say EVERYBODY’S taken out of Adam.  What the Scriptures would say is that everybody has the POTENTIAL to be taken out of Adam, but you need to receive the free gift that God is offering to you. And you receive it by faith.}  How much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life.  Now that’s awesome!!!  Okay?  Will you look up at me for just a second? That’s good news!  Cause here’s what Paul just wrote to the church at Rome.  What happened here is not that you got your ticket punched to heaven.  That happened.  That’s not the ONLY thing that happened.  There’s this like caricature of Christianity where it’s sorta just fire insurance and we believe and we put our faith in Jesus but really nothing changes.  Right?  It’s not just fire insurance; it’s not just when we die this happens to us—-it’s true, it does.  But what Paul says, is when you’re taken out of Adam and you’re put in Jesus you REIGN IN LIFE!! As in like, TODAY!!  You reign!  Through the one man Jesus.  

So here’s the thing—-if we’re gonna reign in 2015, we need to learn what it looks like to live in and through Jesus, right?  Cause that’s the invitation.  It’s not just put your faith here and then hope for the best.  No! It’s you put your faith here and then you start to learn what it looks like and what it means to live through the one man Jesus.  I think a lot of us, we skate into, we rush into the new year without taking time to just pause and say, “Okay, Jesus, if my life is gonna look like what YOU want it to look like and what I want it to look like, because I believe you’re the author of joy, then I need to learn what it looks like not to try harder, but to live through you!” 

See, because all of us try harder! In fact, that’s probably the message you get in a lot of places—hey, you can do it!  Here’s my message —- you CAN’T do it!  But HE can!  Paul isn’t selling fire insurance to the Roman church, he’s giving them a place to stand that will determine the way we walk. And where you stand will always determine the way that you walk.  Here’s the beautiful truth that emerges out of Romans chapter 5, verse 17.  God doesn’t want you to survive 2015—–He wants you to THRIVE!  This word “reign in life”, literally is a derivative from the Greek word that we get our word kingdom from.  He intends for you–as you’re in Christ, as you learn to live in Christ, as you learn to live through Christ–to not just exist, to not just to get by, but for your life to flourish.  I love the way the commentator, John Stott, puts it when he says this: We become kings {this reign in life idea} sharing the kingship of Christ with even death under our feet now and one day to be destroyed forever. This is His intention–that you might reign through Christ.  Not just exist and try harder through yourself.

So before we run into the New Year, can I just remind us where we stand? Cause like I said, I think it’s dangerous to just say, “Here’s what I’m going to do better.”  Do you know what?  You can never do better enough to get out of the Adam bucket.  The great preacher, George Whitfield, said: It would be like trying to climb to the moon with a rope made of sand.  Good luck.  You can never get out of that position.  But praise be to God, because of His (verse 17) abundance of grace that He lavished on us with His free gift of righteousness.  And if we don’t START the year there and if we don’t LIVE the year there, WALK the year there, END the year there, then I think we will have absolutely missed God’s intention for our life.

So I’m sitting there making this list of like — alright, I want to be a better friend, a better husband, a better dad and I just sense God saying, “Just….PAUSE.  Before you to try to do anything better, will you remember what I’ve already done?!”  Maybe that’s a word for you this morning.  Before you try to do anything better, will you remember what God’s already done?  And ironically, that’s what allows you to do things better, but you can’t go there first.  The cart can’t come before the horse!  You need to STAND in that spot before you walk into what Jesus has for you.

What does it really look like to live through Christ?  I’m glad you asked that!  If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t know what to talk about for the next 15 minutes.  So that’s what we’re going to unpack.  What does this look like; what do I need to believe; what do I need to press into; what do I need to pray that God stirs my heart in the coming year that I can really live through Christ and therefore reign with Him, not just exist?  Paul unpacks that before he gets to this reign in Christ package in verse 17.  He unpacks it in the very first part of Romans 5.  So flip back there with me and we’ll unpack how do we REIGN THROUGH CHRIST IN 2015?  Here’s what he says: Therefore {Now, quick time out.  I promise I won’t do this all throughout.  But anytime we read the word “therefore”, we should ask the question what’s it there for?  What he’s doing is tying an argument back into a theological proposition that he’s made.  The word “justified”—made right in the eyes of God and made right in reality—by faith and faith alone.} Therefore, since we’ve been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

So here’s the equation, if you will, that Paul throws out there.  We are condemned under Adam. Put faith in Jesus….we’re justified…and what happens because of our justification is that we have peace with God.  Any animosity God may have had towards us……slate wiped clean!  Gone! If you’re going to walk with any sort of fortitude and any sort of goodness that produces something in you, some fruit in you, in the coming year, can I assure you that you need to start in this place.  You need to know that you live in the place of peace.  Some of you grew up with parents where if you did something wrong they played the “shun” game.  Right?  They watched you do something wrong and then they’re like, “Well, not talking to you for a few weeks…days or hours or whatever it was in your house.”  Can I assure you that your Heavenly Father is not like that?!  If there’s anything that stands between you and Him it’s on your end, not His.  What if you started the year actually believing that?  What if you started the year believing that by faith we step into this place of peace….like the Hebrew word Shalom.  Wholeness. Goodness.  That that’s the way God views us!  That’s why I think it’s so important to hit pause before we hit go.  To just remember where we stand before we try to run.  Cause if we don’t know where we stand I think our running’s gonna look a lot like my daughter on ice skates!

God’s not mad at you!  He says, “There’s nothing that stands between you and I! Nothing!”  Start the year there. Before we start striving and trying, let’s start the year there.  Paul in verse 11 says: More than that, we  also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  His (Paul’s) picture is like God gets His big, strong arms and He just pulls us back and says, “I love you!  I’m for you!  Come home!  You are now not in Adam, you’re in Christ and I am for you!  I’m not mad at you! I’m not angry at you! I’m good towards you!”  That’s really good news!! And if you don’t know how to stand, you’ll never know how to walk.  It means we can enjoy God.  We can hear the heart of the Father and know that He’s good towards us.  Not that we’re trying to earn anything and pry something out of His hands that He really doesn’t want to give us.

Verse 2 he says: Through him {this is Jesus} we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. Here’s what he said.  By faith you step into peace with God.  And by faith you step into the grace in which you now stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Great news, friend!  Regardless of what you try to do or where you try to go in 2015, can I assure you that by faith you stand in grace.  In 2014 you stood in grace.  ’13…’12…however many years you’ve been alive and have been a follower of the way of Jesus, you stand in and under the waterfall of His absolutely abundant life-saving grace.  I think we fast forward through that too quickly and fail to grasp its significance for our life.  Before faith ever had a job for you to do, it had a place for you to stand.  And that place was:  you’re redeemed, you’re holy, you’re loved, you’re made right by the free gift of Jesus!!  I’m as type A as any of you.  I love the list.  I love to check it off.  I’m in recovery, but I love the list!  And I just sense the Spirit saying, “Will you just remember where you stand before you start to strive?”  You stand in grace.  Not just like a little bit, like enough to get you by.  But like enough grace to sign, seal and deliver you as a child of God for all eternity!  That much grace!

So before you start to strive, remember where you stand.  We had some time to spend with my sister and brother-in-law over break.  My nephew, Caleb, is about 15 months and he’s just starting to learn how to walk. He does this deal where he’ll climb up on something and he’ll just stand there!  They have an older daughter, but for some reason, I can’t figure it out, they’re really excited for Caleb to learn how to walk.  After you have two kids, you’re like please, don’t walk!  Right?  I don’t have enough hands for this!  Just crawl……FOREVER! Crawl to the bus stop, I’m fine with that.  But when you only have two, they’re like oh! come on!  Walk to us! And Caleb’s just like……whooowaaaahh!     I have this picture in my mind while I’m reading this passage of me just going whoooaaa!  Learn how to stand in grace!

Paul says it another way in 1 Corinthians 15, you stand in the seat of grace, you live in the place of peace. Here’s how he says it: Now I would remind you, brothers, {and so I’ll remind you, too, brothers and sisters} of the gospel I preached to you {that you are redeemed by the free gift of the grace of God purchased by Jesus on the cross through his blood.  You’ve been transformed out of Adam into Jesus.  You are in Him.  He’s for you. He loves you. His grace is sufficient for you.} preached you the gospel, which you received {and I hope you do} and in which you now stand.  As if to say, don’t grow beyond this.  Grow deeper into it.  Remind yourself of it.  Preach it to you.  Here’s some of my resolutions for this year:  preach myself the gospel more; remember the grace of Jesus more; share the grace of Jesus more; remember the mercy that covers my life when I screw up—and I’m going to in the next 361 days.  I’m going to tomorrow.  When I do, to remember I’m no longer in Adam, I’m in Jesus.  And in Jesus, I live under “the abundance of grace.” You know what starts to happen when we live in this state of “Man, I stand in grace”?  We start to be a lot more gracious.  How hypocritical would it be for me to be like:  Hey, every morning I need to remind myself I stand in a place of grace.  And if you need some, well, no, this is just roped off.  This is just for me.  No, people who stand in the place of grace, say, “Come on in.  The water’s warm.”  I stop comparing myself to you and other people who I think might be doing a better job than me; whatever that means, as far as following Jesus.  I stop comparing myself, because my admittance at the beginning of every day is I need grace today; I stand in grace today.  So, what place is there to go?  Man, I’m really nailing this! There’s not!!!  It’s beautiful!  It’s what actually has the potential to create community! We stand in grace together, so my expectation is sometime in the next 361 days you’re going to need some grace.  I hope we live here, friends. Cause even as we start to walk with Jesus, we never walk outside of that.

Finally, here’s the way the passage continues.  Verse 6: For while we were still weak, {that’s an understatement} at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  {Now you may take offense to his language here that he’s saying you’re ungodly, I’m ungodly, you’re in Adam, you’re dead in sin.  That’s what he’s saying, but what ungodly means is simply that you’re not like God.  Anyone want to discuss?  Perfect!  Move right along here.  Christ died for the ungodly.  The imperfect–people like you and me!}  For one would scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die—but God shows his love for us in this that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  And you never move outside of that love!!  I think something happens in church-ianity sometimes.  We may not say it, but what we say is well….once you put faith in…..God loves sinners, but once you put faith in Jesus, He loves performers.  Get it together before you put faith in Him because He loved you while you were yet a sinner, but once He makes you holy you’d better nail it or else he’s not going to love you anymore.  I want to tell you nothing could be further from the truth! Nothing could be further from the truth!  So not only do you live in a place of peace, you stand in the state of grace, and you live under the beautiful weight of divine love!  This starts to drive out fear.  This starts to drive out the need for other people to say you’re doing great.  As we understand the love of the Father and His heart towards us, we start to be okay with other people not giving us the applause and the pat on the back because the divine applause from heaven is coming our way because of the work of Jesus.  I want you to like me, I want to serve you well, but more than that what you need from me is not to be liked by you.  What you need from me, is for me to stand under the waterfall of the peace and grace and love that flows from the throne of God over my life, and over yours!  And it frees me from having to hear you say “you nailed it!”  And it frees you from having to hear other people say “you nailed it!”  So before we go off and run anywhere, let’s stand somewhere. Let’s stand in the grace of God.  Let’s stand in the peace of God.  It is RIGHT NOW ALREADY YOURS!!  Because you’re by faith IN Christ.

I looked at my list that I had and a lot of it was things about me that I wanted to change.  Things about me I wanted to do better, things about me I wanted to improve on.  And I just sense God saying to me, “Ryan, before you try to become someone else, remind yourself who you are!”  So, I’ll say it to you too!  Before you try to become someone else, friend, would you remind yourself who you are?  By the grace of Jesus, you stand in front of Him pure, holy, spotless, blameless.  That’s who you are!  You have peace with God; He’s not mad at you, He’s for you.  You have grace sufficient for every screwup you’re going to make this year—-and you’ll make some!  So will I!  Some of the things on my list might not even get done.  Would you remember regardless of what 2015 holds for you that you’re loved by a benevolent, gracious Father?!  Who says come home.  Come home!!  Before you run off, remember WHERE. YOU. STAND!  And God, being brilliant, worked into the rhythm of what it looks like to follow Jesus a sacrament that we call the Eucharist, a communion table, because He knew we would forget!  That we’d start to run off and DO, before we just remembered to BE!  And so this table that we’re going to celebrate this morning is about being.  It’s about being a child of the King.  It’s about reigning with Him—not someday, but TODAY—as we learn to live by His grace, by His peace and through His love.  So on the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and He broke it.  He said, “This is my body.  I’m giving it for you.  Free gift!  And this is my blood, shed on the cross for you.  It makes a new covenant of grace and mercy because I’m for you and I love you and my grace is sufficient for you.”  So before you start 2014 and jump into all that you have going on, good stuff I’m sure, hit pause.  Come to the table and remember that before you do anything, He gave you a place to stand that is better than any of your accomplishments you plan on making.  I invite you to come.  As you come, you can take one of the little pieces of bread and one of the cups of juice.  You can eat the bread whenever you feel so led just as a reminder that you’re in this relationship with Jesus.  Would you keep the cup so that we can remember that we’re together in this as a community as well.

Let’s pray as we come to the table today.  Jesus, I’m just so overwhelmed by how good You are!  And how much we need You and how you’ve met us in that need.  And one-upped (maybe “went after”?) our sin with your grace.  Made a way. Reconciled.  Made us right.  So this morning, Jesus, we want to hit pause on our life and remember where we stand before we try to run into what You have for us in the coming year, and we believe You’ve really good stuff.  But we also believe that it only happens as we remember what You’ve already done. So as we come to the table today, Father, would you remind us what you’ve done—the free gift of Your abundant grace.  May it well up inside of us.  May it blow up in our souls in a way we could never possibly imagine that it might propel us to really truly live for you.  We love you, Jesus.  It’s in your name we pray. Amen.

Reign In 20152019-02-18T00:43:31-07:00
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