Jan. 12th, 2015 | Series: Reign in 2015

Sermon Content

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.