Jan. 11th, 2015 | Series: Reign in 2015

Sermon Content

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.