Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sin and the Christian! - Romans 7:14-25
by Pastor Lee Hemen
December 31, 2006

When I was younger there were times when I was caught doing things I really did not want to do, but I went a head and did them anyway. Oh I could have blamed others, the dog, or circumstances for my proclivity to do these things, but I knew better. A good example was when I knew without a doubt my brother loved peanut butter. In fact, he loved it so much that if he saw me with a peanut butter sandwich, he would often just take it from me. Well, one afternoon I purposefully made a couple of slices of peanut butter on bread. I spread it real thick, slowly waiting for Ed to come into the kitchen. And sure enough, there he was. “Whatcha doin’, Scrawny?” (This was his endearing term he often used for me.) “What’s-it-look-like?” I replied. “Hey!” he declared, “Give me those slices of peanut butter and bread!” “You want em,?” I retorted. “Let me have them!” (Notice the intellectual conversation?) That was all I needed to hear. It was like fate had handed me the perfect moment in time. So I did what any red-blooded American boy, who could run real fast, would do, I let him “have” them. There was peanut butter in his eyes, in his nose, in his ears, and in his hair. It was a thing of beauty.

I knew better than to do what I did. Believe it or not, I even struggled with the fact that if I did it I would deliberately be involved in doing something mean. Paul would understand what I went through during this precise moment of time. In fact, he describes it quite well in the verses we will study this morning concerning “Sin and the Christian.” However, while Paul describes the battle that goes on within the human heart concerning sin, he also gives us the answer and the cure of it as well. So let’s discover for ourselves what Paul teaches us.

READ: Romans 7:14-25

My Dad used to tell us that “Knowing and doing are to different things.” I never understood that until I read this passage in Romans. You can know something is wrong, but not do it, or, you can know something is wrong and then do it anyway. In fact, you can know something is wrong and fight the urge not to do it but it seems as if you are in a heated battle not to do the very thing you know is WRONG! Right? We have all been there and done that. Paul is no exception and in fact in teaching us about “Sin and the Christian”…

I. Paul Relates Two Concrete Spiritual Truths (vv. 14-20)!

1. The law is spiritual. The law teaches us about sin and just how bad it truly is. In fact, understanding how sin affects us is the first step in being the holy man of God He desires us to be. We know that the Law comes from God who is Spirit (John 4:24) and expresses God’s will for human living. There is nothing wrong with the law. It teaches us what sin is and we become aware of sin because of the law. In fact, just trying to be good without realizing why you should be “good” is not logical. Why do the right thing, even when doing the evil thing would perhaps get you ahead faster, easier, and without so much hassle? We only know that something is evil in of itself because we know what real “goodness” is. Goodness is always measured by holiness. And holiness is spiritual. Therefore the law is spiritual. It comes from the One who is completely holy – God. The law is therefore spiritual.

2. Paul is not spiritual. In fact, none of us are! This is the dichotomy of the human condition. Paul would say, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Paul may want to do right, but he does the sin instead. Why? Because we are all unspiritual, sold as slaves to sin! Sin lives (cohabitates) within our human hearts. In who we are. The law proves it is good by making us aware of our sin. This is why Paul and all Christians have the similar conflict: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it!” Paul was not very spiritual and neither are any of us!

EXAMPLE: It takes very little self-examination for the Christian to see that our life and conduct fall short of God’s divine expectation. Even though we have acquired a new nature by spiritual rebirth, the old nature continues to exert its evil influence. Paul was not trying to escape the responsibility of his actions, but rather he was trying to explain just how deeply lodged within the human being is our corrupt nature. Every parent has heard their child respond to the question, “Why did you do that?” with, “I don’t know.” When we fail to live for the Lord, we are slaves again to sin! David would sing, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2) This is the way of a godly man who controls his life. Paul is not making an excuse for his sin and neither should we ever do so. For sin and the Christian we learned two spiritual truths: God’s law is spiritual, and we are not.

However, there is hope on the horizon! We have been rescued from the storm-tossed seas of human self-effort and spiritual insecurities! We know that “sin shall not be (our) master!” (Romans 6:14) Why? Because Paul earlier taught us that the Christian is “under grace.” The Christian has a victory over death and sin! We live under the cover of grace not the letter of the law! We dare not, however, use our propensity to sin as an excuse. To do so would make God out a liar. Either we are changed or we are not. So it is with excitement we discover within this text that for “Sin and the Christian”…

II. Paul Understands Two Surprising Spiritual Facts (vv. 21-25)!

1. Sin is always waging war against us! Paul was a person who tried to learn from his experiences, so now he concluded, “I find this law at work.” Paul desires to do good, but evil is right there with him. Why? We live in a sin-fallen universe! We might, like Paul, “delight in God’s law,” but we “see another law at work in the members of (our) body, waging war against the law of (our) mind and making (us) a prisoner of the law of sin at work within (our) members.” Paul is showing the contrast of who he was and who we are as well. He is not saying that God cannot save us completely in Christ. He is saying that while outwardly he delights in the law of God, inwardly he still fights the battle. If he were not saved, he would not care. So to you, dear fellow Christian! While you may think, as Paul declared, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And while sin will always wage its war in a sin-stricken sickened world, there is glorious good news, hope, and strength!

2. Jesus is always right there with us! Paul knew that we do not need to lose heart. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day!” (2 Corinthians 4:16) How? “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul recognized that as long as he was in this mortal body he would face the continual conflict with sin and would definitely have defeat if he depended upon his own human strength! However, the Christian does not have to! Christians can have an inner triumph now as they look forward to the final victory when sin will not have any influence whatsoever! We will one day be free from the presence and persistence of sin forever! Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has provided for the power to live in the freedom of the Spirit of God! It has set us free from the power of sin and death. Jesus is always right there with us!

EXAMPLE: I am surprised when people are upset with the War in Iraq lasting so long. The President reminded us over and over that this would be the case, but we must stay the course. His reasoning is because he knows that this is not a war against political ideals, but it is a spiritual one as well. At its core it is a war against an infectious evil. Some call it Islamofacism. It will not be won by merely winning a battle or by occupying a nation. It will only be won when we are willing to go the distance and are willing to eradicate this evil wherever it exists -- spiritually. Sadly, I do not think it will ever be won until either the Lord returns or the people, who justify the murdering and slaughter of millions of people to Jihad, change inwardly. Paul would understand what I mean. He understood two surprising spiritual facts: Sin is always waging war against the believer, and Jesus is always right there with us! While we may have the influence of sin all around us, we also have a victory in Christ.

Conclusion:
Today we learned several important lessons from Paul concerning sin and the Christian. We learned about two spiritual truths: The law is spiritual and we are not. We also learned two surprising spiritual facts: Sin always wages war against the believer, and Jesus is always right there with us! Now, what will you do with what you have learned?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Father’s Tale
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 17, 2006

The Bible does not tell us anything about Mary’s family. Her mother and father, or any of her siblings, if she had any at all. However, I believe that Mary’s life exemplified a godly one. After all, she was chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world! And we learn from the angel Gabriel that she was highly favored of God. We also know that her life was a reflection of her upbringing and so it is with this assurance, we find a father worried about his young Hebrew daughter “Miriam...”
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I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter His courts with praise! I will say this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice for He has made me glad! This is both the happiest day and the saddest day of my life! But as you can see, I think I will focus on the happier part! Oh Lord, my God thank You for being the God You are. Thank You for my daughter Miriam!

A father knows this day will come but he never realizes just how fast it does come. Your daughter is one day playing with your beard, learning to walk, learning the Psalms and singing them sweetly around the house, and the next… she has growing into a fine young woman! Can it be that she is fourteen now? They grow up so fast! This last year she has learned to cook, sew, keep a household, and to manage affairs well like a good Jewish woman should.

Just yesterday she was my little girl. For me, she will always be my little “Ahyawlaw.” My fawn. But then we have found a good man for her. A carpenter, an established man who is well liked, and has a steady income. His name is Yoshep. He is very kind too, which suits me well and is never late for Synagogue and always observes the Sabbath. He is a godly man. He will make my little Miriam a fine husband, and who knows? Soon perhaps I will have more little ones crawling all over their “Abbie!”

Yes! Today is both a sad day and a fine day! A day the Lord has truly made! I think I will focus on the fine part! My little Miriam, married?
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Today is a miserable day! A bleak day! A day that no man should go through, not even Job! First, Yoseph comes to me and says he is not sure he desires to wed our Miriam. I am shocked, he is embarrassed. I can see it all over his face. He hardly can look at me.

“Yoseph,” I ask him, “what is wrong?” Why has my little Miriam displeased you so? Is she too lazy? Is she too small and not strong enough to bear you fine children? Is she a flighty woman, not thinking of her household? “No,” he says. “She is none of that.” In fact, she is perfect, but did I “know something about her that I had not told him before?” “What?” I demanded. What did he mean?

Then the horrible truth came from his lips. Miriam is with child! How could this be? At first I accused Yoseph of deception, then of being foul with his words. He rebutted that his actions with Miriam were always honorable. I ordered him to leave my house. How could he say such thing about my little Ahyawlaw? My Miriam? My little, beautiful, wonderful daughter?

Then she came into the room where I was inwardly weeping, and calmly took my hand. She looked into my eyes and confided in me that indeed it was true. She is with child. She had told Yoseph herself and being an honorable man, he was seeking to do this quietly as to not cause problems for her. I could not look at her. Who had done this foul thing to her? To us? To her mother and me? We would be seen in town as horrible parents! A laughing stock! They would think that some Roman soldier had seduced her! What would we do? What would she do?

She then said something so sad, yet so unbelievable to me that at first I could not understand her words. They came out of her mouth, but they seemed as gibberish to me. Calmly she confided that an angel of God, Gabriel, had come to her and related that she would be a mother of a special child. The Holy Spirit of God, he promised, would come upon her and she would conceive a male child. She was to make sure to call Him “Yeshua.” The angel told her that “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Yacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” He would be the Savior of His people Israel. The Messiah!

I did not want to believe her. I thought her mad. I asked her if God’s angels had a habit of introducing themselves to young Hebrew women on a first name basis. But then I saw her calmness. Her face radiated. No longer a little girl stood in front of her father, she was a blessed beautiful woman of God.

Then today, a message came from my brother Zachariah. His wife Elizabeth, is with child as well! Now, my brother is older than me! And his old barren wife Elizabeth to be pregnant is a miracle… right? So then I encouraged Miriam to get some of her things together to go and visit Elizabeth because not only would she know what to do, and she could help, but if Elizabeth was going to give birth, then what had occurred with Miriam was for a reason. But what exactly? And what will we do with a pregnant young unmarried woman in a Hebrew village?

Yes, today is a horrible day? Isn’t Lord? Surely You can understand a father’s hurt for his daughter? Now, I know why Yoseph was so hurt…
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Today is one of those days you cannot describe. Everything is a mess in my life, my wife’s life, and in the lives of Miriam and Yoseph. Yet it is a good day as well. Can you believe it? Yoseph came back to me last week to talk again about Miriam. Yes, they are going to be married! How you ask? Yoseph came to me within a few days to humbly, yes humbly, to ask permission to be the husband of Miriam again! I told him that we had sent her to Elizabeth and Zechariah. At first I was angry. I was hurt. I was the father of a daughter that something was happening to that I could not explain! He could not possibly know what I was going through!

Yes, yes, he knew all about it! Him? How could he know so much? Who made him aware of what God was supposedly doing in the life of my only daughter? Then he related to me that he too had been visited by the angel. He related that the angel visited him in a dream and told him, “Yoseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.” He hurried off to make arraignments to go and tell Miriam right away.

Now today, TODAY, they both come to me saying that because of this decree from Caesar they have to journey to Bethlehem! Now! At this time of the year! And she is with child and could give birth anytime! Yet Yoseph was adamant as was Miriam. I had to let them go, didn’t I? We could not defy the Romans.

My little daughter, my new son-in-law, journeying over bandit infested highways. Such a long way. Well over sixty or seventy stradia. But You, Lord, You will watch over them and keep them safe? Help Miriam with her birth, dear Lord. Help Miriam find a safe comfortable place. Watch over Yoseph and help him to be a good husband and father. Find them someone who will help Miriam!

He hugged me. And Miriam, my little Miriam, my Ahyawlaw, she stood on her tip-toes, reached her little face to mine, and kissed me right here on my cheek. She whispered, “Abba, it will be okay. Do not worry. God is watching over us. I carry His child.” Children, what do they know? There are so many dangers in the world. So many things can happen.

Then they walked down the road and over the small hill over there and were gone to Bethlehem. My Miriam. My Ahyawlaw. Gone. A wife and soon to be a mother of a baby boy… Who would have believed such things?

Oh Lord God, please keep Ahyawlaw safe for her “Abba.”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Law and Sin! – Romans 7:7-13
by Pastor Lee Hemen
December 10, 2006

There are always those who think they can disprove the Christian faith by regurgitating tired old arguments. You know what I mean. Things like, “Well if God is so powerful, can He make a rock bigger than He can lift?” or what some think is a new one: “If God is so good, why do bad things happen to good people?” Richard Dawkins, a leading atheist, who does not believe in evolution but angrily snipes at Christianity, touts much the same lame argument. He relates in his latest book, “The God Delusion,” that the God of the Old Testament “is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In other words, how could a good God allow bad things to happen? He goes on to identify the central doctrine of the New Testament as atonement for original sin and characterizes this tenet as “vicious, sadomasochistic and repellent.” Basically, Dawkin’s latest book is a 400 page tirade against the belief of any divine being. What Dawkins and others like him fail to see is exactly what Paul wrote against in his letter to the Romans. If you fail to understand the basics of who God is and how He relates to the world, your view of God is messed up.

The Judaisers, those who adhered to Christianity by faith in Jesus yet wanted to retain the theology of works by observing the law, were at odds with what Paul taught: “By grace you are saved, not by works least anyone should boast.” So, like anyone who is resoundingly confronted with the truth, they begin to reason unreasonably. Just as Richard Dawkins and his brethren do, the Judaisers began to argue from a weak position. They ask Paul a stupid question: “Is the law therefore sin?” Paul relates exactly what the law is and what sin is in his answer. Let’s discover out what it means for us today…

READ: Romans 7:7-13

The law of God is commonly divided into three parts: the ceremonial laws, the social laws, and the moral laws. The Jews believed you had to keep all of those laws to become holy. By the time of Paul's ministry, the rabbis had summed up all of the Old Testament law into 613 commandments. But it was almost impossible to keep them all, especially since they had been embellished beyond the intention of God. However, here in these verses, Paul dramatically teaches us that…

I. The Law Reveals Sin (vv. 7-8)!

1. Can the law be sinful? Paul resoundingly retorts, “It can never be!” Some translate it out as “God forbid,” but the wording for this is not found here. For Paul, the law cannot be considered evil under any circumstance. That would be an utter absurdity! In verse 7 he goes on to say he would not have recognized his sin unless the law had revealed it. The Law is not the cause of the act of sin; the ruling nature of sin within an individual is. However, it makes us aware of when we sin by its very quality. Before the law anyone could have said, “Hey, God, You did not tell us that such and such was sin, therefore how can You hold us accountable?” (This argument by the way, would not hold theological water, but there are those who would argue this way anyway.) In fact, some legalists still do! It’s kind of like if there were no red lights telling us when to stop, we would just run intersections when we wanted to. (I know, I know, some do anyway.) Until we were killed or hurt dramatically, we would say, “Hey, no one told us it was dangerous, and besides, there are no signs that say it is!” While this is patently stupid, there are people like this. They think they can do whatever they want, when they want to. After all, God hasn’t told them not too, right? Paul says that oh yes God has. The law He gave, revealed sin for what it was: sin!

EXAMPLE: I can remember getting into a discussion with my father about being in someone else’s field. I declared rather self-righteously, “You never said we could not go into that particular field!” My Dad whacked in the back of the head and declared, “Now you know not to -- because I just told you not to!” I knew better than to argue with him about the injustice of the situation. How could I have known ahead of time? Actually I did, because I knew how my Dad would feel if he found out that we were taking a short cut across someone else’s property without permission. While I could have argued the delusional injustice of it all, I now knew the truth of the matter. It was revealed to me in a rather abrupt way. The same was true for Paul. He knew that the law wasn’t sinful, the law reveals sin!

In fact, after I knew I was not supposed to use that field as a short cut, I had this urge to do so anyway! Why would that happen? It must be the law’s fault, right? No way! This is why Paul related, “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.” (v. 8) The law identified the problem. Yet it also intensified my sinful self to want to do it anyway! Like Eve who knew better, we are drawn to the fruit of our own desire and we chose to ignore God’s law. And what happens next, according to Paul is devastating to us because…

II. The Law Kills the Sinner (vv. 9-11)!

1. Paul recognized this fact and wrote that “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died!” (v. 9) What Paul means is that he was satisfied and self-sufficient before he knew he was in sin! He was content with his self-righteous life. But that was shattered when he realized that the law could never save him: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death!” No matter how good Paul thought he was, he could never be good enough to save himself. The law made that plain. He would continually have to offer up sacrifices. He would have to continually hope against hope that he was “good enough” for God to love him. The law was killing Paul spiritually. A person can only go around so long saying, “I’m a sinner! I’m a sinner!” after looking at the law of God. And, Paul relates that “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death!” (v. 11) He had been lulled into thinking he was righteous as he went about persecuting Christians in his zeal for God. By today's standards, he had his “act together.” But then Paul was confronted with reality: God's holy law. When Paul looked inside of himself he saw the evil that existed there. He knew full well that all the religious things he had been doing could not make him holy, so he threw himself on the only thing that could: Jesus Christ. Paul knew he was dead because of the law. That’s what the law does. The law kills the sinner.

EXAMPLE: The world is full of people like Paul used to be. They think that by doing good things, then they must be good themselves. While outward random acts of kindness can be good in of themselves, the person doing them is not necessarily a good person! They are just acting “good” for the moment. Kind of like Molly our dog when she is caught doing something she should not be doing. She looks up at us like, “Me? You think that I was being bad? Not me! Look at how GOOD I am being right now!” In fact, this is the same faulty argument for those, who do not want to believe in God, use. They think that because people can do random acts of kindness, it inherently means people are good. I wonder how many of them have ever had children of their own? Babies immediately only have one thought in mind and that is themselves! In fact as they grow they will continually only think of themselves first unless adults help them to realize the error of their ways. Until they do, they are maladjusted. When they are made aware of their selfishness, then they either die to themselves or they sin by ignoring what they have learned. Either way, they are made aware and are accountable. This is what the law does. In fact, Paul tells us that the law kills the sinner.

My brother and I were always trying to skirt “the law of the parents.” Not that we were necessarily bad boys, but we could hold our own, so-to-speak. Often we would not even be aware we had done anything wrong, but my mother, knowing our true nature, would often confront us. Then, when we were made aware of our sin, we would be “dead meat.” You know, like when we would track dirty footprints across her newly waxed floor or be covered with raspberry stains from eating all the ripe berries off her vines. We might loudly protest our innocence but we knew we were “dead meat.” In fact, Pau related this final truth in a very graphic way by telling us that…

III. The Law Shows Sin’s Sinfulness (vv. 12-13)!

1. Paul tells us that the law displays three characteristics: It is holy, righteous, and good! Just as God is perfect, His law is as well. As God is holy, so too is His law. As He is righteous, so is His law. As He is good, so is the law of the Lord. But more than that, it is literally equitable, fair, or right. There's nothing wrong or unjust about the law in any way. And, Paul wanted his readers to know this truth. However, we also discover another wonderful truth, namely, that the law promotes blessing! How is it possible that the law, which has caused sin to flourish, could possibly promote good for mankind? Because where sin flourishes or abounds, grace abounds that much more (Romans 5:20)! The law reveals we are sinners in need of a Savior. When we run to Jesus, we find abundant grace. What Paul taught is reflected in David’s Psalm: “The law of the LORD is perfect… The precepts of the LORD are right… The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” (Psalm 19:7-9) However Paul shows us that while it convicts us, it is not the law’s fault but our own responsibility. In fact, our willful sin causes our death! The wages of sin is death (6:23)! As Mac Arthur writes, “When the law unmasks our sin, it brings about death by showing us how far short we fall of God's perfect standards.” The law shows sin’s sinfulness.

EXAMPLE: Sometimes I think that I blow life by just waking up in the morning. Have you ever felt this way? You know what I mean? You wake up feeling like an old brown bear rousing from a winter’s hibernation, mean, hungry, and wanting to eat anyone or anything that comes near you. Kick the dog, growl at your spouse, and just walk around with a scowl on. What is a hard reality is the simple fact that God has given me someone that often helps me to see myself as I really am. No, not just my relationship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit living in me, but my wife, Denise, who has put up with me for 31 years! She is often a great barometer of just how mean and ornery I can be. I continually wonder why she allows me to wake up some mornings. I think she is tempered by grace. Whatever the reason, she can help me see just how irritable I can be. When she does, I am convicted to apologize, and to try and live differently. Paul realized that for him, it was the law of God. It showed him sin’s sinfulness. It pointed him to Jesus.

Conclusion:

The law for Paul revealed sin for what it was, how it utterly killed the sinner, and it’s sinfulness.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

We Live by Sanctification - Romans 7:1-6
by Pastor Lee Hemen
December 3, 2006

Humans love to bind themselves up with legalism. It is almost as if we are so insecure in ourselves that we just need someone to tell us what to do and when to do it just so we can feel safe about ourselves! There is a commercial on TV that sells what is called a BlackBerry ® for the communication company Sprint. Three people are walking in a downtown area and one of them is holding his BlackBerry ® and using it as a GPS (global positioning device). When one of his companions takes it out of his hands to take a closer look at it, he is immediately lost and looks confused, not knowing where to turn or which direction to go until it is placed firmly back in his grasp. Spiritually, we can be the exact same way when we begin to depend on legalism to guide our faith. Christians are to live by sanctification instead of legalism.

The place of legalism for Paul was a continual theological battleground because of his Jewish opponents. For them the law, their legalism, was a comfort and a gift from God, the mark of His guidance to His people. The problem was they studied it to even its minutest detail, picking it apart. Paul, now that he had trusted Jesus Christ, understood what the law had done and its true importance. Paul wants his readers to understand that while the law was important, legalism was not, and in fact grace was the outcome of faith in Jesus! He wanted them to learn that the Christian lives by sanctification, not by following a set of rules. Let’s see how Paul teaches us that we live by sanctification.

READ: Romans 7:1-6

My mother used to confuse me, when I was doing something she thought was dangerous, by solemnly declaring: “If you kill yourself, don’t come running to me!” I often wondered and wanted to ask her, but I never dared to, “Would I be then a zombie?” She would not have understood my confusion, nor my attempt at humor. There are those who are confused by what Paul relates here in these passages as well. However, we discover that…

I. Paul gives to us a great example (vv. 1-3)!

1. For some this example of Paul’s is kind of confusing, but it shouldn’t be. “The main difficulty,” as Leon Morris explains, “is that Paul’s illustration refers to a wife who is bound to her husband as long as he lives, but who is free to marry again when he dies as she could not before (his) death.” As an example we would have used the wife dying instead! (Now ladies do not get excited and say I or Paul are sexiest.) Why? Because Paul asks, “Do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to MEN who know the law—that the law has authority over a MAN only as long as HE lives?” So wouldn’t it make more sense to have the wife die and the man remain unbound by the law regulations afterwards? However, Paul is not so much interested in the consistency of his statement, or marriage, as rather in the persistency of his threefold analogy: 1) The law was important prior to Jesus’ coming, 2) death changes things, even our relationship to the law, and 3) death to the law happens for a specific purpose, in order that we might live a sanctified life “so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (v. 6)!” If you die, things change, right? When we die to self in Jesus, things change as well. The legalism of the law is no longer binding to our spiritual existence. In fact, we are “released” (literally, “free”) “from the law!” Now, we are to live a sanctified life in Jesus!

EXAMPLE: In Sydney, Australia, according to a November 12, 2006 Associated Press article, more than 200 Australian motorists have avoided parking and speeding fines by blaming either a dead man in what police said Saturday may be a widespread fraud. Under New South Wales state law, if a car owner signs a sworn statement that they were not driving the vehicle when an offense was committed, they can avoid paying speed camera fines, which arrive by mail, and parking tickets left under windshield wipers. A recent government audit of the excuses given in those sworn statements revealed that 238 motorists had avoided paying outstanding tickets through fraud. Some 80,000 Australian dollars ($61,000) of fines have been avoided this way in the past three years! Forty-nine of those car owners have since been charged with swearing false statements and face up to five years' imprisonment. The others will be questioned as part of a police crackdown. You see, when you are dead you are no longer responsible for the law! Paul also gives us a great example so that we can live by sanctification instead of legalism!

I will never forget finally understanding the simple truth that anyone can come to Christ and thereby live a free life from legalism. God’s love for me was not based on what I did for Him, it was squarely based on Jesus Christ, and His life, death, and resurrection! There was nothing I could do to get God to love me more. This was liberating for me. It was like being released from shackles. Now, I understood why Baptists sang so much and were so irritatingly happy! As we look here in Romans we discover the same glorious reality! We discover that…

II. Paul relates to us a wonderful truth (vv. 4-6)!

1. “So,” continues Paul’s theological idea as to the consequences of the preceding verses. If the law has no power over someone who has died, Paul wants them to know that “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him (Jesus) who was raised from the dead!” His reason is obvious because he wanted his readers to understand that this was “in order that we might bear fruit to God!” This “fruit” is the results of our sanctified life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) In fact, Paul related that at one time “when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” Remember what the “wages of sin” is? Death! “But now,” Paul teaches us that “by dying to what once bound us, we have been released (made free) from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” When you are dead to sin and dead to the law, neither can bind you anymore! This is a wonderful truth for us! Our salvation is not due to the law or following legalism. We are delivered from the law, legalism, and death! We are “released” (free)! The wonderful truth is we live by sanctification!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever seen a person whose life is bound up by legalism? They are never sure if they measure up and often they are defensive and prideful. They live kind of a spiritual schizophrenia whereby the person feels they are controlled by outside forces that they have to appease in order to be accepted by God. If they do certain things, then God will love them. It is kind of like training a young puppy. Dogs love to please their owners. They will watch and try to be submissive to the one in charge. Sometimes by showing displays of licking, soft biting, or wiggling their tails and holding themselves close to the ground. It is as if they are saying, “See, see, I am really obedient.” How sad to see this in the life of someone who is ensnared by legalism. They think that by doing good things, God will love them. When in fact, Scripture teaches us that God already loves us and has provided a means in which we are already made righteous in Him through Jesus Christ. When we die to ourselves, we then live for the Lord. Our outward acts then come not from trying to please God, but rather from the motivation of His love living through us. In this, Paul relates to us a wonderful truth! We live by sanctification. God has made us holy to live holy lives!

Conclusion:

Hans Christian Andersen wrote the tale of the Nightingale where a rather drab looking little song bird was supplanted by a beautiful jewel-encrusted mechanical one, but eventually sang so sweet it even charmed death, and was allowed its freedom to sing when it desired. When the Holy Spirit sings to us about the saving grace of Jesus Christ why would we want any other false mechanical melody? Paul gives us a great example and relates to us a wonderful truth, that we live by sanctification, not legalism.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Sanctified Life! – Romans 6:8-23
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 26, 2006

Whether it’s preschoolers or puppies, a person often finds themselves repeating phrases over and over. You know like, “Come here. Come here! Come HERE!” or “Stop that. Stop that! STOP that!” I thought that this was the case when I overheard a woman an aisle over at WinCo, a local grocery store, repeating, “You really do not need that. You really do not need that. You REALLY do not NEED that!” I came around the corner expecting to see her with a unruly preschooler in her shopping cart and them having a concerted “discussion” about something that the child wanted to have. I was surprised to discover she was alone. She looked up at me sheepishly and confessed, “I am on a diet and I have to remind myself that I do not really need certain things to eat.”

Someone once said that “repetition is good for the soul.” Paul must have adhered to this concept because he is fond of repeating himself concerning certain spiritual truths in the Book of Romans. My mother was kind of like the Apostle Paul in that she often repeated herself as well when she wanted to convey certain concepts and have them stick in our boyish brains. In fact, she would often tell us that it seemed as if my brother and I had “heads full of mush!” Perhaps the Roman Christians had “heads full of mush” as well? Sometimes an important spiritual truth is worth repeating so that you never forget it. The spiritual truth Paul wanted his readers to learn was the fact that they could enjoy a sanctified life right now. Let’s find out how Paul repeats himself concerning this most important spiritual truth…

READ: Romans 6:8-23

The first time Paul repeats himself is to remind us that…

I. Christians are dead to sin (vv. 8-11)!

1. These verses state much the same truth as verses 5-7 and in the same format, beginning with “if.” Those who by faith receive Jesus, are identified with Him, and have died with Him! Remember, we are now “dead to sin.” Paul relates that because this is true, we literally “keep on believing” that we will also live with Him. In fact, our resurrected life with Jesus begins at the moment of regeneration, and it will continue forever with the Lord! “We know” it to be true. Just as “Christ was raised from the dead, and “He cannot die again!” In fact, “death no longer has mastery over” Jesus. Paul writes that the “death (Jesus) died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God!” and so “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus!” This is how Christians are dead to sin.

EXAMPLE: There are those who over the centuries thought that in order to worship the gods you had to sacrifice something living. You supposedly did this to appease the specific deity you worshipped through a gory ritual. The Aztec, Mayans, and Incas all did gory sacrificial rituals to appease their myriad of gods. The sacrifice the Jews were to make had nothing to do with appeasement and everything to do with counting the cost and pointing to Jesus’ future death on the cross for our sins. Sadly there are those who think that you still need to sacrifice Jesus over and over. They forget that the “death He died, He died to sin once for all” and that in “the same way” we are to “count” ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus!” However, like I stated last week, this does not mean that sin no longer exists, because it in fact does. Nor does it mean that we will never sin again. Yet we find hope and strength in knowing that just as Jesus died and was resurrected to new life, we are dead to sin and resurrected for new life right now! Yet how are we to attain all this? By sinning more? “No!” Paul would declare. It is through our daily living for God. In reality, we discover that…

The second repetition Paul makes is the fact that…

II. Christians are slaves for righteousness (vv. 12-18)!

1. Paul relates that the attitude of mind that a believer has died to sin must be translated into action in his experience. Paul commanded us to therefore “not let sin reign,” literally “do not let sin continue to reign” as it did before your salvation! It can also be translated, “Stop letting sin reign.” It is your choice. You can decide whether sin will reign in you or not. This is important because when sin reigns in people’s lives and bodies, they obey its evil desires. Sin enslaves (v. 6), making a person subject to his own evil desires rather than his own determined will. Paul reminds us, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” We have to ask ourselves, “Who will be my master in life? Jesus’ grace or my sin?” Paul bluntly asks his readers, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Paul reminds us, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin…. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness!” Christians are slaves for righteousness!

EXAMPLE: In the movie “Bruce Almighty,” Jim Carey is asked by Morgan Freeman, who is supposed to be God, “What one thing do you want?” Carey replies, “Grace.” It is the name of his girlfriend, but is a perfect example of what every person should want from the Lord. His grace. Carey’s character learns that simply having infinite power does not give you infinite wisdom, compassion, or ability. God’s grace is given to us and we become righteous because of it and not because of anything we do, could do, or may have done. In other words, we cannot earn it. Paul takes it a step further and relates that not only do we immediately enjoy the grace of God when we place our faith in Jesus, but we are then to live in that grace. We are to be slaves for righteousness. There is a very good reason why this is true.

The final truth Paul recaps again for us is that…

III. The result is eternal life in Jesus Christ (vv. 19-23)!

1. It seems almost unnatural for Paul to equate that we can be “slaves to sin” or “slaves to God.” I do not know about you but I know that I can understand that I can be enslaved by evil and have difficulty in living a holy life without God’s grace, but slaves to God’s righteousness? How is that possible? Paul gives us the answer to our dilemma by telling us: “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” He uses terminology we can understand! It boils down to our decision to do it or not! In fact, the only harvest or “benefit” (fruit) we had from a life of picking the fruit of sin was “death!” Now, however, we benefit with a life full of the fruit of the Spirit! Like caged sated well-fed animals, unthinking and unconcerned about our state at the time, we are now “set free from” our self-induced duplicity and captivity of sin, and made “slaves to God” which “leads to holiness, and… eternal life.” Why? Paul reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

EXAMPLE: I learned at an early age that you earn what you put into something. If you try to get by through doing the least amount of work or effort it will eventually show and others will know. Even if you fool yourself into thinking that you have “made it,” others around you will know the truth. David McCasland writes that a story in Colorado newspaper reported that a $1.73 billion highway and mass transit project in Denver was nearing completion on schedule and within the budget. But the story wasn't on the front page. In fact, it was tucked into a sidebar of brief summaries in small type on page 3 of the local news section. If the project had been plagued by fraud, delays, and cost overruns, no doubt it would have been headline news. Paul told the Thessalonica church to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Perhaps we should decide that “not to make the news,” is not such a bad motto in life. If we lie, cheat, and steal, that's news. If we live honestly and morally, we can have an unnoticed yet effective spiritual influence on people around us. Trusting Jesus and living a righteous life results in eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

Repetition is good for the soul, and in this instance very good indeed! A sanctified life occurs when Christians are dead to sin, slaves for grace, where the result is eternal life in Jesus Christ!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sanctification for Life! – Romans 6:1-7
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 19, 2006

At no time did I think that when my best friend and I got caught for taking pop bottles from the back of John’s Grandway, a local grocery store, that we would be told not to do it again and let go. And make no mistake we never dreamed that because we were forgiven the first time that we should press our luck and try doing it again. Yet there are those who actually think this is true! They think that God is their best buddy and that He just kind of winks at sin, because didn’t Jesus die for our sins, and God is love after all, right? This is convoluted thinking.

We discover that there were those in Paul’s day who had the same misguided notion about Jesus. They may have not actually believed that what they were saying was true, but they wanted others to think that this is what Paul was teaching about God and His view of our sin. Now before you think I was a Juvenile delinquent and that I made a habit of pilfering pop bottles, it simply is and was not true. We found them piled in a heap in the back alley and never thought that this was where the store actually kept them. We were only about 8 or 9 years old at the time. Hardly Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but still I admit that we had sinned. However, when confronted we realized our mistake, asked for forgiveness quickly, and were even willing to make amends. To our surprised relief we were let us go with a warning not to do it again. Paul relates to his readers that salvation should lead a person to better living. Holy living, in fact. It is sanctification for life. Let’s discover how this is true this morning…

READ: Romans 6:1-7

Here in chapter six Paul moves on and begins to relate what happens to people’s lives when their sins are forgiven and they are declared righteous in God’s sight. It begins a lifelong process of holy living known as sanctification. Paul said that sanctification is for life because of two factors. The first being that…

I. We Are Dead to Sin (vv. 1-4)!

1. Paul had just written that where sin increased, grace increased all the more. The question would be immediately raised, “Why not sin even more and get even more grace?” This is spiritual nonsense of course. That would be like my buddy and I saying, “Hey! Since we were so graciously forgiven once for taking pop bottles, let’s go do it again, and this time let’s take even more of them so we can earn even more forgiveness!” Of course the answer to such a stupid idea is, “No way!” Paul says that the believer dies to sin, “how can we live in it any longer?” While sin does not die, we are to die to sin! If we obey sin in our lives, then it is alive to us. But when we say “NO!” to sin and live for Christ, we live holy lives! Sin lies on the other side of the grave for the believer. Paul would emphatically state that we “were baptized into His (Jesus’) death…. in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!’ In fact, Paul was incredulous and asked, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Paul knew that sanctification for life begins with knowing that we are dead to sin.

EXAMPLE: When we rode our bicycles home that afternoon, we knew the store manager would phone ahead to our parents and let them know what had happened. Everyone knew everyone in the small town of Wenatchee. At first we dreaded going home, but we knew there was no alternative. No circus was in town we could run away with, and we were too young to join the Marines. Yet, by the time I hit the front screen door of my house, I had determined that I would just come clean to my life of crime. Let the pop bottle caps fall where they may. My heart sank when my Dad immediately asked, “So, find any pop bottles son?” I knew he knew, so I related the whole sordid tale of my miscreant afternoon. My Dad just looked at me, smiled, and said, “So, I guess you learned a lesson about honesty, huh?” And that was that. What a relief! It was like a ton of bricks being taken off my shoulders, I can tell you. I vowed right then and there never to take another pop bottle that did not belong to me. And that is what God’s grace is to incur in our lives as well. For Paul it was so marvelous to be forgiven of one’s sin, why would anyone want to sin more? Wouldn’t that be foolish? If you are saved, you are dead to sin, why make it alive again in your life? Sanctification for life begins with knowing we are dead to sin!

Christians have often lately misapplied the term “born again.” It is more than a new code of conduct or finding a new way to live life through twelve easy steps. It is no triviality. It is a new birth. A spiritual rebirth. The lives of people who claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord are to be different from that moment on. It does not mean that sin no longer exists, nor that you may not fall prey to it again. However, it does mean your life will take on a new direction. A holy change of course. In fact, Paul relates that while we are dead to sin, the second factor for sanctification for life is that…

II. We Are Raised for Life (vv. 5-7)!

1. There is a good reason why this is true: Paul says that “since” (not “If,” like the NIV) “we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” He was completely assured of his relationship with God! He knew that a seed has to die and be buried in the ground before it can produce a crop! In fact this should be a liberating thing for the believer! Why? Paul would say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).” In fact we will discover that Paul dramatically writes that “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (v. 6:16)!” We “know” with certainty that “our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin!” We had to die in order to be resurrected! We had to die in order to be born again! And when we are born again, we are not bound by our sin because we are dead to it! When we died to sin, we were reborn into grace. In Christ we are set free. Sin only brings about death. Death of the sacrifice, death of the one caught by its power, death of the Son of God, and eternal death to those held in its power, but to us who are saved—we are raised for life! Sanctification for life means being alive to Christ and dead to sin. Because He lives, we too can live. We are raised for life!

EXAMPLE: Whenever we would ride by the alley where we had taken those pop bottles from, we would tease one another and ask, “Want to go get a pop?” Neither of us ever went into that alley again. In fact, it was kind of like it was off limits to us. Radioactive or something. And because of that we never had to worry about it again. Did that mean I never sinned again? No. Did it mean that I became perfect? My mother would vouch that this was never true! Yet, I was never again tempted to do a pop bottle caper. I also learned that when I was honest with my father, he respected me for it and it later made talking to him a whole lot easier. The same is true for the Christian and their lives in Christ. Knowing that sin holds no power over you unless you let it, and that when you do blow it, you have someone who loves you and is willing to listen to your cry for help. In fact, He will give you the strength to endure and triumph over it. Why? Well, Paul would tell you it is because we are dead to sin and raised for life!

Conclusion:

We are dead to sin and raise for life! What two wonderful factors to know and live by. Now, what will you do with what you have learned?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Adam and Jesus– Romans 5:12-21
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 12, 2006

Certain people are very important in our lives. Parents, grandparents, friends, and our church family. All of these become extremely important to our lives because each affects us in someway or another for either good or bad. However, there are others who have effected our lives, yet we may have never met them personally or interacted with them in anyway whatsoever. Politicians, doctors, lawyers, famous persons present or from the past may have affected our lives without us ever having met them. Two such prominent men are Adam and Jesus. they have affected each of our lives, even though we have never personally nor physically met either of them. Paul explains to us exactly how that is possible and the importance what it means for each of us.

We discovered within the past several weeks that possessing the Law was no salvation for the Jews. The Law did not remedy the problem of sin but only caused sin to increase so that the problem became more dramatically evident. Ritual, the Law, or trying to be good enough just does not hack it spiritually. In fact, we discovered that the Law not only increased sin; it made sin a personal matter! We are without excuse. Two people illustrate this dramatically for us, Paul relates. The men are Adam and Jesus. Let’s discover how this morning.

READ: Romans 5:12-21

Over the countless centuries of mankind’s history, a variety of people have significantly impacted the destiny of those who followed after them. None, however, has had as great an influence as that of Adam, the first man. In the passage we are looking at this morning, Paul shows just how great the impact of Adam’s “fall” has been upon all mankind. Paul relates to us…

I. The Results Are From Adam (vv. 12-14)!

1. Paul gives us the basis for sin – Adam! No one refutes Adam’s personal involved complacency in this. Try as we might to blame the woman involved, Eve, Paul knows that because of one man’s actions we all suffer the consequences! The basic premise is that “sin entered the world through one man.” And thereby, death came into being because of that same individual. It is almost impossible for us to comprehend the magnitude of Paul’s statement because we ourselves suffer from the consequences of this man’s actions! All of us sin! We are born into sin-fallen universe and we decide to sin! Death is the not only the natural consequences of sin, but it is also the spiritual consequence as well. While Adam and Eve did not immediately die for their disobedience, they died spiritually. At that precise moment in history the natural man’s inclination, his nature, was to sin. Humans pursued the path of pride and self-destruction. Adam’s transgression determined human nature with its propensity to sin, but more than that – all creation suffered! Physical and spiritual death entered into the idyllic realm where God and man met. Paul relates that “death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command.” Everyone, even those who try to follow God’s Law are under a curse. The results are from Adam.

EXAMPLE: We might exclaim, “It’s not fair!” when we hear that everyone suffers because of Adam’s disobedience. Yet we forget the simple fact that if not him, it would have been one of us. Why? Because we have a propensity, an inclination, a desire, and a predisposition that propels itself to sin. We have freewill. We decide, and in that decision making process we always make the choice for us first instead of God. In fact, we have to continually fight the urge not to. Like Dennis the Menace we can be told not to do something, and it is as if a hidden urge creeps up inside of us and we just have to follow through with our decision to disobey. Like iron filings to a magnet, we are attracted to sin. We want to know good from evil. We want to see it from all sides, even if one side is of no value for us. We forget that Eve did not sin when she took the fruit and bit into it, she sinned when she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye” and thereby made the decision for herself what was good for her or not. Adam agreed. The results are from Adam.

The Law was useless because sin reigned in the human realm both physically and spiritually. Paul stresses the impact of Adam to demonstrate that in spite of the curse, which Adam’s sin brought upon the entire human race, God has provided a dramatic cure in the effective persona of Jesus His Son. To the non-believer, this following passage promises and offers not only the forgiveness of one’s sins, but a brand new beginning. To the Christian, there are no more encouraging words than those found here. While Adam was the physical pattern of the One to come, Jesus is the ultimate spiritual answer! Paul writes that this is because…

II. The Rescue Is From Jesus (vv. 15-17)!

1. The beautiful brush strokes of God are detailed in Paul’s use of the parallelism between Jesus and Adam beginning with the words “the gift is not like the trespass.” However, we find the horrible truth that “many died by the trespass.” Multitudes have died in their sin. While Adam’s sin lead to the death of the human race, how “much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” When Adam sinned, God was ready to give His greatest gift, Jesus Christ. God’s gracious gift of His Son freely flows to those who are willing to accept it. What Adam did to rebel, God did to rescue! And while many have sinned since then, God’s one act of love “followed many trespasses and brought justification.” Paul is astounded at the good news God has given us. He cannot believe the fact that even though “by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” The disobedience of one man brings death, but the obedience of one man brings eternal triumph to all who believe! The rescue is from Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Rescued. What a beautiful word to those who are lost and cannot find their way back from the dark wilderness. Rescued. What a tremendous word for those clinging to a life preserver in the midst of towering waves, ferocious winds, and pelting rain. Rescued. What a comforting word for those who are caught in the midst of the inferno of flames licking the walls. Rescued. Did you know we are all rescued? Rescued from the eternal consequences of sin and the undying fires of hell. Rescued from life’s incomprehensible pitfalls that await us with every step we take. Rescued from the proclivities of our own degraded human reasoning to the immutable light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we all long for in life. Rescued from the pit. Rescued to a new life. Rescued! For Paul the rescue was from Jesus!

Spurgeon wrote that “it is still discovered who are the Lord’s chosen, and who are not; for when the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life.” Paul agrees and teaches us that…

III. The Restoration Is Complete (vv. 18-21)!

1. Paul returns to his comparisons: “Consequently,” Paul relates, “just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” The Judge’s gavel fell and we were all found guilty, but there is a divine acquittal provided for all who willingly accept the provision! The provision is found in the one righteous act of Jesus! It is therefore a promise and it comes to the entire human race as an offer and opportunity which is applied only to “those who receive” it (v. 17). Paul’s Jewish readers, like some of today’s legalists, would immediately ask, “Where does the Mosaic Law fit into all this?” The Law came to display or reveal for us how sin affects us. The giving of the Law did not solve the problem of sin. The Law was not given in order to reduce or remove sin but to increase it. While this sounds incredible, this is exactly what Paul says! We cannot follow God’s Law, it only shows us where we sin! We become aware of our sin because of it! In effect, where we were once ignorant of sin, but now because of God’s Law, we became aware of sin, and therefore sin increased! We, therefore, are now without excuse! The beautiful truth is that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more!” Grace increased through Jesus. Paul writes that where “sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” For Paul, the restoration is complete!

EXAMPLE: Our dog Molly is still just a puppy, but she has to learn how to be a “big dog.” She cannot do whatever she wants to do whenever she wants to do it. For her anything found on the floor or ground is free game and she will eat it immediately. This includes Chloe’s, our cat, food. In fact ,what was once free game as far as Molly was concerned has become a test of wills, so to speak. She now knows her sin, and she now has to fight her natural instincts to eat Chloe’s food. But we have provided a means whereby Molly is made aware of her sin immediately. It is called a rolled up newspaper. One sound of it being whacked on my leg and she runs for her bed. Restoration for Molly is provided in the fact that when she obeys, she is rewarded. You know what? That is exactly the way the Jews of Paul’s day and many legalists in our day and age, see God. They think God rewards or gives us treats if we obey His law, forgetting the fact that the Law only makes us aware of our sin. True grace is found only is Jesus Christ. That is where restoration is made complete.

Conclusion:

We have learned three things from Paul this morning: 1) The results are from Adam. 2) The rescue is from Jesus. 3) The restoration is complete. What will you do with what you have learned?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What Faith Does -- Romans 5:1-11
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 5, 2006

As parents we send our children off to school in hopes that they get some sort of education out of it. We send them off to college in sometimes a vain hope that they will learn the specifics of whatever they decide to do with the rest of their lives, whether it is medical, professional, legal, or otherwise. That is a desired outcome. In life we invest in certain things in order to gain a specific outcome for our investment. Did you know that the same is true for our faith? In fact, in these next passages of Scripture, we discover that they are especially noteworthy of our day and age where everything is measured by the axiom, “What’s in it for me?” Herein Paul describes for us exactly what our faith in Jesus Christ does for us!

We have discovered in the last few weeks that Abraham’s faith was not by works, the law, or by rituals. His faith was in what God promised. We now enjoy the same relationship when we decide to place our faith in Jesus Christ and what He has already done for us. In fact we will discover that our outward circumstances, our inner feelings or guilt, nor what others may say about the matter does not affect in any way our salvation through Jesus Christ! Paul relates we can rejoice in every area of life because of this fact of faith. This is what faith does. Let’s take a closer look at what Paul teaches us about what faith does.

READ: Romans 5:1-11

Far too many Christians walk around feeling guilty all the time about everything in life! They continually wonder, “Does God love me?,” “Am I good enough for God to love me?,” or “Have I done something for God to dislike me today?” This is just plain perverse thinking. The reason it is perverse is because this convoluted thinking revolves around who? US! We are guilty cusses because deep down inside we are an insecure lot. We know we deserve to be punished more than we actually are… right? Paul would say, “QUIT!” In fact, we discover that he teaches us very plainly that…

I. Faith guarantees our peace with God (vv. 1, 6-10)!

1. Paul relates that “since we have been justified through faith,” as a consequence of this reconciliation with God, we have intentional peace with Him! The idea being we do not have any longer the present persistent rebukes of a guilty conscience, nor the daily dread of divine punishment hanging over us. Both of these ideas are included in the peace Paul presented here. The latter, however, being the most essential. In fact Paul teaches us that because of the “gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand… we (can) rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!” How is this possible? How could we, a sinful people, ever be good enough for God? The answer? We can’t! In fact, this is what makes this even more of a mystery for us. How could a good and holy God allow us sinful people near Him? Paul tells us how: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly!” WOW! It has nothing to do with us, our trying to be good or our feeble attempts at being better. Paul describes for us the powerful mysterious character of God’s love: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Because of the sinner’s response by faith (v. 1) to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God has declared him righteous. Why? Because of His grace, His mercy, and His love for us. WE can rest assured therefore that the now-declared-righteous person will not be forsaken by God’s love, which has been poured out extravagantly in his heart! Faith guarantees our peace with God!

EXAMPLE: The story is related how Joe was dying, and he wanted to make everything right. He was at odds with Bill, who had been one of his best friends. They hadn't spoken to each other in years. Neither could even remember why they had fought in the first place. But their wrath remained against one another. However, now that he was dying and wanting to resolve the problem, Joe asked Bill to visit him. When Bill arrived, Joe told him in a feeble voice that he was afraid to go into eternity with bad feelings between them, and he wanted to make things right with his old friend. Then he did something quite unexpected, he weakly reached out for Bill's hand and said, "I forgive you. Will you forgive me?" With tears running down his cheeks Bill said he would, but just as he was leaving, Joe motioned Bill to his side one last time and whispered into his ear, "Just remember one thing Bill, if I get better, this doesn't count!" The glorious truth is that when we trust Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we are forgiven and the restoration begins. No wrath remains. We are granted peace with God! In fact, Paul relates that our faith guarantees our peace with God!

Like I said before we are an insecure lot. We continually wait for the other shoe to drop, so-to-speak, in our lives. Everything can be just fine, but when something finally does go wrong, we declare to ourselves, “There, see, I told you it would happen!” For some it is almost a relief when something finally does go bad. We forget the biblical truth that we live in a sin-fallen world. Bad things happen to the ungodly and the godly because bad things exist! However, Paul teaches us that we do not have to live like that. We do not need to live an insecure faith. In fact, he relates that…

II. Faith gives us peace in life now (vv. 3-5, 11)!

1. Believers can enjoy the peace with God that has been achieved and the glorious future in God’s presence that awaits them in heaven with Him. But how should they react to those tough experiences of life that are often hard and difficult right now? Oddly, Paul tells us that we are to “rejoice” in our sufferings! What?! Is he crazy? The word “sufferings” is thlipsesin, meaning “afflictions, distresses, or pressures.” James had the same idea when he wrote: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).” This is more than a mere Stoic endurance of troubles. This is a spiritual glorying in afflictions because of the certainty that the end product of this chain reaction in life is “hope!” Paul teaches us that this is true “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Therefore we discover that the benefits of redemption are not all in the future. Pie in the sky, when we die. Paul helps us to understand that it is not only deliverance from future wrath, but the joy and glory of the present favor and love of God, that we owe to Jesus Christ now! In fact, Paul relates that “hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” And the idea here is a continual thing. Daily. Moment by moment. But more than that Paul goes on to declare: “Not only is this so but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Faith gives us peace in life now!

EXAMPLE: Someone has said, "The rest of your life depends on the rest of your nights." Many people, though, feel like the little boy who was having trouble falling asleep. His mother had told him repeatedly to “go to sleep!” He told his mother, "My body is lying down, but my mind keeps sitting up!" If anxious thoughts keep you awake, or if you cannot seem to shake the idea you just might not measure up to the Lord’s standards, ask the Lord to quiet your heart and give you the faith to be able to relax and let Him solve the problems that disturb you. That's what David did when he was in trouble, for he wrote, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8). When you realize that your heavenly Father is watching over you, you can find sweet rest. During World War II, an elderly woman in England had endured the nerve-shattering bombings with amazing serenity. When asked to give the secret of her calmness amid the terror and danger, she replied, "Well, every night I say my prayers. And then I remember that God is always watching, so I go peacefully to sleep. After all, there is no need for both of us to stay awake!" Paul relates that our faith gives us peace in life now!

Conclusion:

Faith guarantees our peace with God and faith gives us peace in life now! Do you have faith in Christ?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Faith In A Promise -- Romans 4:9-25
by Pastor Lee Hemen
October 29, 2006

Fred Bowlby, owner of a west London pub, The Pig and the Whistle, had become famous for his Doomsday Chair. It was an old cane chair with gold cushions, chained to a fixture in the pub. Any who dared to sit in this chair were offered free liquor. A city slicker had accepted the challenge and allegedly died on the spot. A town drunk unknowingly sat in the “killer chair” and his body was later found in the river. Father Duddleswell maintained that the absence of faith leads to superstition, and so he was challenged by the pub’s owner to sit in the chair. Bowing to public pressure and the offer of 100 pounds, the priest agreed to sit in the chair every day for a week at a designated time. When the week was over the father proudly took the chair home and displayed it in his study. Later, the father confessed that he had found an identical chair in a local antique shop, and with the help of the pub owner’s wife, had switched the two chairs. The real chair was buried in his garden. However, the pub owner came to the father to make a confession as well. “As you know, father, that is not the Doomsday Chair,” he said, pointing to the chair displayed in his study. “You see, father, after Charlie Skinner drowned I found an identical chair at the local antique shop and replaced the killer chair, for fear someone else might die.”

“And what did you do with the real chair?” the father inquired. “Well, I would have buried it in my garden, but my wife being a keen gardener, I knew she’d find it. So I took the real chair back to the antique store and told them I must return it since it didn’t suit the decor of my place.” The owner commended the faith of the priest, for even though it was not the real killer chair, he had acted with courage in accepting the challenge of the pub owner. When he left the priest collapsed into his armchair, ashen-faced. Quickly he instructed his associate to dig another hole in the garden! – (Adapted from ‘The Doomsday Chair’ by Neil Boyd, Reader’s Digest, April, 1978, pp. 100-104.) Faith that is motivated by works, ritual, or a faulty ideal that regulations can save you is mere superstition.

Last week I shared how Paul masterfully argues that works could never save a person. However, the Jews with whom he was arguing would immediately begin to try and pick apart his argument by retorting, “Well then, what about the rituals we were given to follow? What about God’s law given to us to live by? And what about the promise God has given only to the Jews?” Paul responds by relating each argument and putting it to rest with both logic and Scriptural examples. He reminds us that our salvation is based on faith in a promise. That promise has not changed. Let’s discover what he means this morning…

READ: Romans 4:9-25

Did you ever sing the children’s ditty, “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back?” Or there are those who think that breaking a mirror brings about seven years of bad luck. Recently, we saw a Friday the 13th, which fell in October this year, come and go. Sadly, there are those who place a great amount of superstition on these kinds of things. In fact, there are those who will go through great rituals in order to get rid of any kind of “bad luck” they may have acquired. Paul relates that the Jewish law was just mere ritual now. His faith was squarely placed in a promise. It was…

I. By faith not ritual (4:9-12)

1. Abraham’s age when he was declared righteous (Genesis 15:6) is not stated. However, later when Hagar bore him Ishmael, he was 86 (Gen. 16:16). After that, God instructed Abraham to perform the rite of circumcision on all his male descendants as a sign of God’s covenant with him; this was done when Abraham was 99 (Gen. 17:24). Therefore the ritual of circumcision of Abraham followed his justification by faith by more than 13 years! Paul’s argument is that circumcision was a seal of Abraham’s being declared righteous because of his faith which he received while he was still uncircumcised. Circumcision, as a “sign” or “seal,” was an outward token of the justification Abraham had already received. Technically, then, Abraham was saved as a Gentile, and not as a Jew, for he did not enter Judaism by the ritual of circumcision, nor did he have the Law to keep. God’s purpose was that Abraham be the father of all who believe and are thereby justified. This included both the uncircumcised Gentiles and the circumcised Jews. Jews must do more than follow a mere ritual of circumcision in order to be right with God. They must walk in the “footsteps of faith,” like Abraham did. Obviously, then, the rite of circumcision, which many Jews rely on for salvation, contributes in no way to one’s status before God. It gives them no special standing before Him because they must be declared righteous on the basis of faith in God. Paul teaches us that the promise is by faith not ritual!

EXAMPLE: The other night as I watched the World Series I saw several batters enter the batter’s box, only to cross themselves, lift one leg each time, or swing their bat exactly the same number of times before taking their stance. What I was observing was ritual. Each of these men thought that by doing certain things, the same way each time, they would have a better chance in hitting the baseball. Nothing could be further from the truth. People may also face a certain direction when they pray, genuflect to an alter, whisper set prayers over beads, or burn incense all in an attempt to follow ritual rather than faith. Some try to justify their actions by saying it is an outward act of their inner faith. Then why do any of them at all if you have faith? Ritual never saved anyone. Heightened religious activity does not necessarily honor the Lord. In fact, it can mean you are only out to please yourself! We confuse our selfish ritual with sacrifice. There is no sacrifice that any man can do that would grant salvation, except that of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul would say that the promise is by faith not ritual.

We all know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but did you know that on the very last day when President Clinton left office he signed into effect 30,000 pages of new laws we are all supposed to know! Paul would cringe, as we all do, when faced with such a daunting task of trying to follow every manmade rule and regulation. This is what he tries to tell his readers as well. Paul relates that the promise is…

II. By faith not the Law (4:13-17)

1. The Jews considered the Mosaic Law, a special revelation of God’s standards for human conduct, as the basis for their special standing before God. They had the law, no one else did. Yet Paul bluntly relates that faith that saved a person “was not through Law!” God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 preceded the giving of the Law by several centuries! God has imputed righteousness, Paul repeats again, by faith! Paul makes it plain that just as justification is attained by faith, so are the promises of God realized by faith. In fact, Paul boldly states that “if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless!” Why? “Because,” Paul explains, the “law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression!” We learned that no one can keep the entire law. It is impossible to do so. The law was not given to be kept but rather as a means to make us aware of our sin! Make us aware we are lawbreakers! People were to live by the law not as a means of keeping score of being good, but by living a godly life! This is why Paul relates that “the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” For Paul it is the object of our faith that makes all the difference between heaven and hell: It is “God who gives life to the dead (because of faith) and calls things that are not as though they were.” Paul teaches us that the promise is by faith not the law!

EXAMPLE: We all try to push the limits of the law. We travel just over the speed limit in order to get a few extra seconds of time shaved off our travel. We may even run a yellow light or two, knowing that it could change to red any moment and that the law really states that you are to always slow down before entering any intersection, even if the light is green. If the light is yellow before you enter the intersection, you are supposed to stop. It’s kind of like the story of the young salesman who approached a farmer and excitedly told him about the great book he was selling. He said it had all the information he needed to run a profitable farm: when to sow, when to reap, how to predict the weather, how to care for livestock—everything that would make any farmer a success. Patiently the farmer listened and then replied, "I know everything that's in your book. My problem is doing it." Paul is saying basically the same thing here. Our problem with the law is doing it, and the law was never meant for that purpose anyway! For Paul the promise is by faith not the law!

I read several years ago about a woman who hurriedly purchased 50 Christmas cards without looking at the message inside. She quickly signed and addressed all but one, and then dropped them in a mailbox. Just imagine her dismay when later she glanced inside the one unmailed card and read these words: This card is just to say… A little gift is on the way. No doubt there were a lot of people wondering what happened to their presents! Paul related to his readers that the promise was…

III. By faith in God’s promise (4:18-25)

1. Abraham may have thought his linage was “dead,” but with faith in God, all things are possible. Though humanly there was no hope of ever having a child, the old patriarch believed God’s Word. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. God honored his faith, and he became the father (ancestor) of many nations. In spite of the humanly impossible situation, Abraham did not waver through unbelief. He was old, his wife was old, and what hope did they have? The hope of God’s promise! The patriarch was strengthened in his faith (lit., “was empowered)! God, responding to Abraham’s faith, empowered him and Sarah physically to generate the child of promise. Also he gave glory to God, that is, he praised God by exalting or exclaiming His attributes. Abraham was fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised. What confidence in God this spiritual forefather possessed! He “in hope believed” (Rom. 4:18); he was not weak in faith despite insuperable odds (v. 19); he was not divided in his thinking by unbelief (v. 20a); he was empowered by faith (v. 20b); and he was fully persuaded God had the ability to do what He had said! This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness!” The words “it was credited to him,” Paul relates “were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead!” It is by faith in God’s promise realized in Jesus Christ that we are saved! Praise the Lord!

EXAMPLE: The Radio Bible Class tells us that “Promises are the hope of our heart. A child's security depends on a parent's promise to keep him or her safe. A spouse can live with confidence because of a mate's promise of fidelity, loyalty, and love. Businesses depend on promises from employees, vendors, and clients. Countries remain safe when neighbors keep their promise to honor their borders. Unfortunately, hearts and relationships are broken in all of those situations by unkept promises. There is one Promise-Maker, though, who can be trusted completely and without fear. That one is God. Paul reminds us that if anyone had reason to wonder if God could or would keep His promises, it was Abraham. But "contrary to hope, in hope [Abraham] believed" (Romans 4:18). We know that what God had promised him—that he and his wife would have a child when they were both past 90 years old—could not have happened without divine intervention.” Abraham believed (had faith in) that promise and it was credited to him as righteousness! In fact, Paul tells us that “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us… who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” For Paul the promise is by faith in God’s promise!

Conclusion:
Paul teaches us that our righteousness is by faith not ritual, by faith not the law, and by faith in God’s promise! Do you live by faith?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Faith, Not by Works– Romans 4:1-8
October 22, 2006
by Pastor Lee Hemen

I can remember my father standing over me as I slowly came out of my self-induced semi-conscious state. What happened was I had this really great idea to jump off the roof while holding several big pieces of cardboard. Now do not think I was stupid, I did duct tape them onto my arms first! The sky was blue, the birds were soaring in the white fluffy clouds, and I was soon going to join them. I knew something immediately went wrong when the ground came hurling up at me in a green and brown blur. Well, you know the rest. My father stood over me asking me, “What in the world do you think you were doing?” My thought was, “Why do you ask such silly questions of your son who is lying there, in pain, slowing dying? I was trying to FLY!” Just because I thought I could fly with cardboard taped to my arms did not mean that I could master the intricacies of aerodynamics. Faith did not equal works, so-to-speak.

Interestingly, Paul makes similar observation in his letter to the Roman church. Here’s what I mean: Just because a very young boy dreams of flying, it does not mean that just because you wish it makes it so. The same is true for our saying we are “Christian,” but depending upon our good deeds to make it true. Paul would say it is “Faith, Not by Works!” We learn this as we look at these verses of Paul’s and ask ourselves several questions. The Jews would go straight to their founder and so should we by asking…

I. What can we say about Abraham (vv. 1-3)?

1. Basically, Paul is asking a blunt question of his readers about the Jew’s reliance on Abraham’s example. They placed a lot of stock in Abraham and saw him as their spiritual father and physical ancestor. And rightly so. Therefore, Paul plainly asks, “What made Abraham right before God, faith or works?” What had this patriarch of patriarchs discovered in this matter? What did their spiritual and physical ancestor say? What lesson could Paul’s religious readers learn from the biblical record of “Father” Abraham’s experience? Paul knew that Abraham was declared righteous by believing God, apart from works, just as Genesis 15:6 testifies to. If Abraham was declared righteous by works he could boast, but Paul relates, not before God! So, what can we say about Abraham? Paul would retort, “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” Abraham’s righteousness came about because of his faith, not the good works he did. In fact, there was no law of Moses yet! Abraham’s faith brought about his righteousness!

EXAMPLE: We have all heard the old phrase: “Seeing is believing.” But the biblical truth is: “Believing is trusting.” In the TV show “Heroes,” there is a guy who thinks he can fly. He has visions about it, and constantly views himself flying. He finally confronts his brother about it and while they are arguing, he begins to walk toward his brother and floats in midair without realizing it. He literally takes a step into the air. Abraham was that kind of guy as well. He could have read books about God and how to walk with Him, but never experienced it himself until he took that step of faith. If all Abraham did was try to visualize himself being good, or tried to be good, he would have died in Ur of the Caldeans and we would not be reading about him or Paul. What can we say about Abraham? His righteousness came about because of his faith, not good works. He had to take that first step into the unknown and trust God with his life just as we are all called to do.

As I lay there on the ground, I hoped that my mother would not come out of the house. Too late, she did. Her first response was not concern for her broken and bleeding boy, but rather, “Just look at what you did to your clothes!” Then of course her focus did zero in on me when she declared, “What do you have to say about yourself this time young man?” Paul kind of does the same thing when he considers faith, not by works. He asks…

II. What can we say about ourselves (vv. 4-5)?

1. The apostle then discusses the significance of his Scriptural example because the idea of “credited” applies to a day’s earnings or the wages received for work given. Paul teaches us though that God’s righteousness is credited as a gift, apart from works, otherwise it would be as an obligation. God is not obligated to anyone. The one who works receives pay, does so not according to grace, but according to a contractual commitment. You work for me, I will pay you for the time you worked and the job you did. However, Paul throws in a surprising argument when he goes on to state that the one who does not work, but believes in the God, his faith is credited as righteousness as well! The Jews had no problem with the teaching that Abraham was justified not because he worked for it but because he trusted God. Yet, were those who were considered “sinners,” or worse: “gentiles,” justified as well in the same manner? Paul says, “Yes!” What does this say about us? Well, even the “wicked” unwashed gentile was saved by their faith and not their good deeds! What can we say about ourselves? Not much! But we can say we are saved by faith, not works!

EXAMPLE: Most people do not like to talk about themselves. They consider it bragging or at least kind of an evasion of their privacy to do so. Yet when we take a close look at ourselves we often come away with a picture we do not want to see. That is why professional photographers who shoot portraits often “airbrush” them. Although it is called “Photoshopping” them because it refers to the popular digital photo rendering software that many use now with their digital photography. Try as hard as we might, we can never physically or spiritually “Photoshop” ™ ourselves into something we are not. I realized that while falling to earth from the rooftop. What I wished right at that moment was to be somewhere else or at least someone else. Especially when my parents found me lying mangled on the front yard. Yet Paul asks the tough question, like my mother did, of “What do you have to say about yourself?” We have to face reality when we do. We are not perfect, in fact, we are sinners by nature and by choice. Only our faith in Christ can save us.

I know, I know, I should have called in the experts on aviation. No, not Orville and Wilber Wright, but Greg and Johnny my best pals who lived down the street! They surly would have been able to give me some sort of scientific consideration that I perhaps had overlooked in my endeavor to soar with the eagles. Perhaps one of the astronauts like Allan Shepard or Buzz Aldrin would have come on over and lent me a hand in my flight principles? That’s it! I should have called in an expert on the subject! Like Paul did concerning faith, not by works. Paul asks…

III. What does David say about it all (vv. 6-8)?

1. Paul would say that David agrees that righteousness is a gift, apart from works, and that it includes complete and irreversible forgiveness. David speaks in the Scripture about righteousness apart from works. In fact he wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 that “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.” I believe David wrote these words because David often learned what they meant firsthand, not only in his relationship with Saul, but later in life as well when he sinned with Bathsheba. David agrees with Paul or rather Paul agrees with David who agrees with God. What does David say about it all? A person, like David, like you and I, to whom God credits righteousness apart from works, is indeed blessed! Such a person’s sins are forgiven and covered. And instead of his sin inventoried and billed to his account, God credits righteousness to him because of His mercy and grace. How wonderful to know this truth!

EXAMPLE: We often wonder what other people say about us behind our backs. We want to know how others view our lives. I know that as the neighbors looked out their windows, wandered over, and phoned my folks concerning their unusual son taking a flying leap off their roof, I wondered. I bet they would be surprised to see me standing here today! Not just because I am alive and well, but because I am a Baptist preacher. None of them would have guessed that for my life, I bet. The Jews would have not only wanted to know what Abraham thought but what David, their favorite king and hero, would have wondered about Paul’s notion of faith, not works. I bet they were surprised too!

Conclusion:

It does not matter who says what concerning their faith if it is not founded in their trust of Jesus Christ. You can never be good enough, do enough things, or live right in order to be saved. As Paul teaches us, it is faith, not by works.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Faith Baby, It’s Faith!– Romans 3:19-31
October 15, 2006
by Pastor Lee Hemen

It is interesting to note that if we decided to make up a religion that people would adhere to, we could sit down and devise such a scheme quite easily. In fact, it has been done before. Several colleges have experimented with the concept. The Satirist Online has a whimsical web page that looks at the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Cult Leaders” and gives suggestions on such things as personal grooming, time management, and conceptualizing your cult. Then there are other sad attempts from those who have a rather odd sense of humor. However, the basis for any such attempt usually follows the pattern whereby devotees are told that unless they follow a certain set of guidelines, then they are doomed. Cults play on people’s personal insecurities. When God gave the Hebrew people His commandments, He intended that they would guide people into faith, trust, and devotion to Him and show them a better way of living. They were not intended to keep people in line nor for a spiritual kind of mind-control or heavenly law enforcement. In fact, God would tell us that true worship begins in faith and awe, not from fear and strict adherence.

Paul, in fact, relates for us exactly what the law was intended to do, where true holiness comes from, and that anyone can uphold the law of God by faith. He would tell us that it is faith baby, it’s faith! Let’s discover what Paul teaches us this morning about God’s law and our faith.

READ: Romans 3:19-31

Paul relates that…

I. The law can never make anyone right with God – it only condemns us (vv. 19-20)!

1. Following a regulation only makes one “law abiding,” not holy! We could follow a set of rules until kingdom come, and never be made righteous. The purpose and ministry of the law of God could never make anyone holy. The law was made to silence people regarding their own ability to come to God. Instead, they became accountable for what they knew. The Law’s ministry was so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world made accountable to God. No one can argue in his own defense that he is not under sin. The Law points out God’s standards and illustrates people’s inability to live up to them. No following a set of rules could ever make a person holy. Instead, the Law was given so that through it we become conscious of our sin. Ignorance of the law is no excuse because people were aware of it through God’s creative work around them! Instead they began to worship and serve creation instead of God! They began to make their own rules for living a holy life. God’s law showed them something else. The Mosaic law condemns us.

EXAMPLE: The other day our new little puppy Molly had to learn a tough lesson: Not everything in the house is hers to chew on. I picked her up in my arms and spoke very gently to her telling her that those things were not hers they were ours and that she should be a “good girl” and not chew on anything that does not have her name on it. Do you think my “talk” worked? NO! Of course it didn’t. The law was in place and I even made Molly aware of it, but just hearing it does not make her aware of it. She had to understand the consequences of her actions. So what I really did was use a rolled up newspaper, smacked my hands real loud with it, and scolded her in a stern loud voice. I told her in no uncertain terms she was a “bad girl.” Smacked the paper real loud near her again and she got the idea real quick. She ran to her bed and tried to hide. I pulled her out and did it again. Do you think she will get the idea now? You see if I had just told her about the problem, she would never change. She has to be “condemned” so-to-speak. She has to face the consequences for her actions. The law of Moses did just that. It can never make anyone right with God, it only condemns them.

The law condemning us is of no value as far as making God’s people holy. It might make us better for a time, but it can never make us truly righteous. It can never change us eternally. Paul teaches us that…

II. Our faith does something the law could never do (vv. 21-26)!

1. Righteousness is achieved for us already! Paul had just made it plain that “no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law, But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been” shown to the whole world and the “Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) testify” to the fact! It is a “righteousness from God” that “comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” By faith we are saved, not through the law. God did this for several reasons: 1) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 2) God “did this to demonstrate His justice” in the past “because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished, and 3) God “did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just” to us right now as well. Jesus’ death demonstrated God’s impartiality to all people, not just the Jews. God’s divine plan satisfied His own righteous requirement and His wrath against sinful man. At the same time it also demonstrated His love, mercy, and restorative grace to all rebellious and alienated people. The solution therefore was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His incarnate Son, and the acceptance by faith by individual sinners. Our faith does something the law could never do! It makes us completely righteous and it saves us completely!

EXAMPLE: The other day Denise made the best dinner ever. It was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, and homemade apple pie for dessert. I know it was good, even though I have not tasted it yet. I decided to just put mine in the refrigerator for safe keeping. I have plenty of time to eat it. I will just save it for later, when I really want to eat it. I think it will still be okay, after all it has only been in the fridge for a couple of weeks now. Perhaps I will go home and warm it up in the microwave this afternoon. Now most of you who know me know that this scenario would never happen in a million years, especially if there was homemade apple pie involved! Why? Because when you get a great meal like that, you don’t wait several weeks to eat it. You partake of it right away! The same should be true when we hear that we no longer have to follow a lot of laws and guidelines. We are saved by faith in Jesus because of Jesus! Our faith does something the law could never do!

Therefore, Paul’s conclusion is that…

III. Faith upholds the entire law of God (vv. 27-31)!

1. The question is not in following rules, it is: “Do you have enough faith to trust God?” After explaining God’s provided righteousness for sinners, Paul considered five questions in the Greek which he anticipated his readers might ask. Two are in verse 27, two in verse 29, and the other in verse 31. Could the Jews boast about the law? “It is excluded,” Paul says! Shut out! He literally asks then “By what principle of works? Paul answers “No, but on that of faith.” Doing good works is no reason for boasting about the law of God. It was not given for that purpose! Paul’s argument is that “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” He then asks, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too?” And answers, “Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” Faith upholds the entire law of God! And finally Paul asks, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?” His answer? “Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law!” The Jews isolated themselves from the world both in faith and in relationship and wanted God to be the God for only one people: Them. Paul used their basic teaching—only one God exists—to convince them God was just in saving all people everywhere by faith. For Paul, faith upholds the entire law of God!

EXAMPLE: People have a tough time accepting the fact that God did not send us a set of rules to follow in order for us to get it right, so that in some convoluted way we could possibly earn His love and thereby be safe for eternity. “If I am good enough, I might be okay.” If this were true, Jesus was stupid for dying on the cross for us! This is why Paul would later proclaim, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering (Romans 8:3).” He would also say that “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).” And finally conclude that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” For Paul, all people “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).”

Conclusion:

Are you trying to be good enough? Are you trying to follow some kind of guidelines? Paul would tell us that: The law can never make anyone right with God, it only condemns them. Our faith does something the law could never do! And for Paul, faith upholds the entire law of God!