Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Romans Series Message #63 February 21, 2010

The True Believer Is Dead To Sin
Romans 6:1-2

You know, back when Martin Luther unintentionally began the Protestant Reformation by preaching the Gospel--that sinners are only saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from any personal works or merits of their own—one of the charges brought against his preaching by the Roman Catholic Church was that if this is the case—that a person can be saved and in fact, kept saved, by God's grace alone irregardless of a person's works whether they be bad or good--then why be concerned about sin at all?

They went further in their attacks against Luther and his preaching to say that he and his false gospel were actually encouraging people to sin because after all, if God's grace is greater than all of our sin then why not keep on sinning?

But not only was his Gospel offensive to the Catholics—it also upset those groups which believed that whereas a sinner was saved by grace—his salvation was preserved by his own good works. They felt that to emphasize God's grace too much to believers was to do away with the very thing that would motivate them to holiness which was the fear of losing their salvation.

And finally, there were others within Luther's own camp who struggled with the idea that a truly saved person could not out sin God's grace. Whereas, they believed it to be true—they felt it wise not to proclaim it too much for fear that it would lead to believers pursuing sin with reckless abandon simply because they thought God would forgive them.

And it has been my experience in ministry that even today in churches that preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that some well-meaning believers sometimes struggle with the ramifications of preaching the truth that where sin abounds in the child of God's life—God's grace abounds all the more—especially, when it comes to others. What I mean is this—can you imagine the trouble that could arise within Christian circles if we taught this truth without qualifying it in any way. I mean—even though its true—would it be wise to teach a bunch of Christian teenagers that they can't out sin the grace of God and that irregardless of what their sin may be it can be forgiven by the grace of God and that their sin has absolutely no bearing upon their acceptance with God whatsoever. I mean—you might as well just tell them to go out an live like the devil because God will forgive them. As one man put it: “I love to sin and God loves to forgive so in order to enable God to do what he loves to do I shall do what I love to do and sin to my heart's content.”

Again, if it is true that my performance as a Christian has no bearing upon my acceptability with God and if it is true that I cannot out sin God's grace and lose my salvation—why worry about sin at all? To take it a step further—if indeed grace super-abounds where sin abounds—why not see my sin as the very means of making God's grace look really good in that it will require so much of it to keep me saved—making God look more gracious than ever?

But now—let me ask you—those of you who have been truly saved from your sins by the grace of God—this is not how you think is it?! In fact, all of this kind of thinking is completely foreign and even repulsive to the person who has truly been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Oh, he or she still struggles with sin and always will until the day they die and enter glory—but they will not revel in a new ability and freedom to sin. That is the mark of an unbeliever not a believer.

You see, the true believer is always amazed by God's grace whereas the unbeliever will always try to take advantage of God's grace and use it as a reason to sin all the more.

Whereas, we all struggle with sin and sometimes the struggle is just plain ugly because we just don't seem to be faring so well in the battle with our sin—as true believers we could never bring ourselves to seriously consider just giving up the fight and pursuing sin with “gusto” and then rationalizing it by saying that we are doing it all for the glory of God. A true believer cannot do this. And if this is where you are—thinking that because you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ that you cannot lose your salvation and thus you have a free ticket to sin--then you are not thinking as a Christian thinks but rather as an unbeliever thinks and the reason you are thinking this way is because you are an unbeliever who is still under the reign of sin.

This is exactly the point that Paul is bringing us to in Romans 6 and which he highlights for us in Romans 6:1-2. Open your Bibles and let's read it.

Now the truth that these two verses and really the rest of Romans 6 is communicating is that:

The person who has been justified by faith in Christ Jesus has died to the reign and dominion of sin in his life and thus is no longer a slave to sin and therefore would never see God's grace as the motivation to pursue more and greater sin.

Now, obviously, this statement raises a big question in our minds, doesn't it—namely--”Then, why do I sin?” In fact—if I am truly a person who has been justified by faith and if I have thus died to the reign and dominion of sin in and over my life—why do I still have such an intense struggle with sin? And why, if I am no longer under sin's dominion and reign do I still find myself giving into sinful temptation and feeling as though I can't say “No”. Furthermore, if I have actually died to sin and thus am no longer under its spell or authority—why do I still enjoy sin enough to pursue it in disobedience to the Word of God? These are good questions and they are the questions that Paul wants to answer for us in Romans 6 as he explains to us how and why we have died to sin so as to no longer be held under its captivating spell.

In essence, Romans 6 is going to teach us how to fight sin for the glory of God and for the assurance of our salvation. And if we were to outline the passage it would go something like this:

In order to fight sin so as to glorify God and ensure that you truly are a person who has been justified by faith and thus is perfectly accepted by and acceptable to God . . . .

1.You need to understand what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:1-10)

2.You need to believe what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:11)

3.You need to act upon and live out what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:12-23)

Now, if you listened carefully to my outline you will have noticed that I did not say: “In order to fight sin and win . . . you need to do the following”. Rather, what I said, is that “In order to fight sin . . . you need to do the following”. You see, Romans 6 is not teaching the doctrine of what is often referred to as “Sinless Perfectionism” in which some people claim that true believers should progress in their spiritual lives to a point of perfectionism in which they no longer sin. This is not what this chapter in Romans is teaching.

Rather, what it is teaching is that since the true believer will be engaged in a fight with sin throughout his earthly life—he better learn how to fight it. And the promise in this chapter is that if he fights these battles with sin God's way and with God's provision—he will see progress in the fight.

Well, today we are going to deal with the first point in how to fight sin as a justified sinner and the fact is we will probably not finish with this point today.

So....How does a truly justified sinner fight sin so as to prove he really is a justified sinner and thus glorify God?

1. He must understand what is true of him as a person who has been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's take a look back at Paul's original question in Romans 6:1 as we begin to flesh this out. His question—to be very specific and quite literal is simply this—“Can we who have been justified by faith continue to abide or live in sin in order that the grace may increase?” Now let's break this question down a bit.

First of all, his question is asking if something is possible for a true believer to do. And the thing he is asking about in regard to the true believer—the one who in Romans 5:1-2 has been justified by God and therefore is at peace with God and the one who in Romans 5:10 has been reconciled to God and the one who in Romans 5:12-19 was transferred out of union with Adam and into union with Christ and the one who in Romans 5:20-21 has been rescued from the reign of sin and placed under the reign of grace—is it possible for this one to continue to live in and abide in “the sin”, all the while thinking God's grace will cover it anyway.

Now the word that he uses for “continue” in this question is epimenomen. It comes from two Greek words, epi and meno. Epi is a preposition which has the idea of being in or moving toward close proximity to something so that you end up in it, on it, or resting upon it. Meno means to remain or to abide or to live. It is used of abiding and living in a house, in a country and even in Christ in John 15:4. The idea is that of living and abiding comfortably in a certain situation. Joined together to form epimenomen, the word has the idea of remaining, abiding, and continuing, in a place or a state of being that would appear comfortable for one to remain in.

Thus, what Paul seems to be asking is this: “Is it possible for a true believer in Christ Jesus to continue to remain, live, and abide comfortably in sin because he believes God's grace will increase enough to cover him in so doing?

Now, before we move on let's make sure we understand what Paul is not asking. He is not asking: “Is it possible for a true believer to sin?” That is not the question Paul is posing in this verse. Nor is he asking if it is possible for a true believer to struggle with sin.

What he is asking is: Is it possible for a true believer to live his life in a state of continued and persistent sin and be comfortable doing so presuming all the while that God's grace will cover it anyway?

And what is Paul's answer to this-- “May it never be!” Now in the Greek text his answer quite literally is: “Not...May it Be” or as we would say--”No Way....Is This Possible!”

And then, Paul asks another rhetorical question in order to help us understand why it is impossible for the true believer to peacefully and comfortably co-exist with sin. Look at the second part of verse 2. Paul asks: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Now let's unpack this question to see what Paul means.

The fact that it is a rhetorical question tells us that that the answer to the question is built into the question. In other words, when you were a kid and your mother asked—Johnny how do you expect to keep your room clean when you won't put away your toys? Well, the answer to this question is obvious—Johnny won't ever keep his room clean if he never picks up his toys. And in Paul's question the answer is just as obvious—we who have died to sin can't live in it—it is an impossibility.

Now in this verse the word “live” comes from the Greek word zao, which has to do with the act of living life. So, the point Paul is making is that true believers—because they have died to sin—cannot continue to live their lives in sin. They can't just exist and pass their days living in a peaceful, comfortable, and unconcerned coexistence with sin—it is impossible.

Now, we all know people or have heard of people who all the while professing to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are involved in openly sinful activities and are not troubled by it in the least. They don't see anything wrong or abnormal with their pursuit of sin and in fact, they even brag about it. And when confronted with it—they either become offended or just shrug it off saying something like--”Isn't God's grace a wonderful thing?” Well, it is a wonderful thing but it is not an excuse to sin.

Then there are others who, while professing to know Christ are secretly involved in personal, private, and hidden sins. And they have no problem pursuing these sins. They hide them because they know they would be embarrassed if found out—but they experience no conflict in their souls when it comes to pursuing these sins and often wonder why their more committed believing friends see them as such a big deal.

What both of these kinds of “professing” believers have in common is that they are living in peaceful and comfortable co-existence with their sin and not experiencing any kind of conflict over it in their souls. And this is what Paul is saying is an utter impossibility.

On the other hand, the experience of the true believer is that he too involves himself in openly sinful activities from time to time and even has his private sinful habits that he often desperately hides from others--but he cannot continue to pursue sin and live in his sin with any sense of joy, comfort, peace, or satisfaction. His heart is filled with conflict and strife as he pursues sin and continues to try to hide it. He is like David, who in Psalm 32:3-4, wrote: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” The true believer cannot continue to comfortably and peacefully co-exist with sin in his life—and not experience terrible conflict in his soul. Check out Romans 7:14-24 and you'll see the tremendous heart wrenching conflict the Apostle Paul endured in his fight against his own sinful lusts. This conflict will eventually lead the believer to engage their sin in spiritual combat because they cannot peacefully remain in this state of sin because they have in reality “died to sin”.

Now what does Paul mean when he says that the true believer has “died to sin”? Well, in the Greek text—it is an aorist indicative active verb, which simply means that Paul is talking about an act that took place once and for all in the believer's life. In other words, in every believer's life, without exception, there was a moment when he or she died to sin once and for all. Now—this is really what the rest of Romans 6-8 is going to explain. Suffice it to say today—that when you truly placed your faith in Jesus Christ and were justified by God and placed in union with Jesus Christ—you were removed from the reign of sin, the realm of sin, the dominion of sin, and thus the jurisdiction and the control of sin and the deceitful spell of sin in and over your life. Paul reiterates this very truth in Romans 6:7 where he states that “he who has died is freed from sin.” He further restates it in Romans 6:14 when he says: “For sin shall not be master over you . . .”

Now, this does not mean that you and I as believers in Christ will not sin and will eventually on this earth and in this body reach a state of sinless perfectionism. What it means is that we have been freed from a state of being in which sin is normal for us and comfortable to us and something we can continue to purposely and deliberately pursue and co-exist with.

One aspect of dying to sin and the aspect we are considering this morning is that when we came to Christ we died to sin in the sense that we died to sin's spell and ability to blind us to God and God's beauty and the utter ugliness of sin, which had caused us to live as those who not only enjoyed sin and pursued sin but who couldn't live without sin and thus who could live and co-exist indefinitely in and with our sin. Now, be careful to note that it is not that sin died—sin is still as powerful and as captivating and as alluring and as deceitful as ever—it is alive and well.

As Jerry Bridges writes in his book, The Discipline of Grace,

“Sin is like a defeated army in a civil war, that instead of surrendering and laying down its arms . . . continues to wage a guerrilla war. . . . Sin as a reigning power is defeated in the life of a believer, but it will never surrender. It will continue to harass us and seek to sabotage our Christian lives as long as we live.”

But—we who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ have died to sin's power, captivation, allurement, and deceit in the sense that we can no longer live peacefully and comfortably and enjoyably in it as one who can co-exist with it. We have to fight it and the true believer will fight it. Oh, the battle may not always be pretty or seem successful but if you are a true believer there will be a battle and there will be a fight and there will ultimately be sanctification.

If there is no battle, no fight, and not even a desire to fight sin in your life—it is because there has been no justification. As Paul teaches us in Romans 6:1-2, it is impossible for the true believer to live in a state of peaceful co-existence with his sin—he must fight it and it is the desire to fight and continue to fight sin rather than to peacefully co-exist with it that is the proof of his justification and ultimately the growing substance of his sanctification.

On the flip side, Romans 6:1-2 is teaching that it is impossible for the person who loves his sin and will not take up arms against it to truly be a saved person. Everyone of us in this room is either a lover of God or a lover of sin. There is no middle ground. And if in your heart of hearts, you know you have been a lover of sin but you desire now to turn from your sin and become a lover of God—that desire is called repentance. If you will give yourself to this desire and turn from and renounce your love for your sin and then by faith turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as your new love and embrace Him alone as your only Lord and only Savior from sin —you shall be saved and set free from the power and penalty of sin and given new life in Christ.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wanted: Visionary Leaders With Spiritual Credibility ~ Joshua 1-4

Leadership Transition Series Message #5
February 7, 2010



Have you ever considered what the difference is between a manager and a leader? Leaders have to be visionaries and managers don't. As Alex Montoya writes regarding leadership, “the main difference between leadership and management [is that] leadership provides the vision, and management executes the vision.” In other words, whereas, managers know how the ladder should be climbed—leaders know where to put it!

Another way of seeing the difference between managing and leading is that whereas management is primarily concerned about doing things right leadership is concerned about doing the right things. As one writer describes the difference: “Managers run around with clipboards and whistles making sure everyone is on the trail—while leaders are blazing the trail.”

When it comes to the church, we need both. We need the more managerial types to help keep us on track but without the visionary leader types we wouldn't even be on the track. And whereas, I have found there to be a surplus of managers in most organizations including the church—there always seems to be a lack of true visionary leaders who know where they are supposed to be leading us and how to get us there.

Now, when I refer to “visionary leaders”, I am not referring to the kinds of leaders and pastors who are setting their own personal agenda for the church. I am talking about the kind of leader who because he is grounded in the Word of God, has a good grasp of church history, knows his own people well, and enjoys a vibrant prayer life has a keen sense of where, how, and to what God wants him to be leading the people under his charge because he can see what others don't. As one man has said: “We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.” So, what I'm really talking about when I say “vision” is spiritual insight and foresight.

When it comes to spiritual leaders who had this kind of spiritual vision—some of the church's greatest examples are found in our mission's history. While most pastors and church leaders in England in the 1700s were obcessed with their own congregations, faltering budgets, and problems with the government—William Carey was staring at a world map dreaming about taking the Gospel where it had never been. And while his church was engrossed in petty squabbling, Henry Martyn saw the Muslim world and became one of the very first to take the Gospel to what we now call Iran.

You know, in a sense, the leader needs to be like Balaam's donkey back in Numbers 22:22-33. While you're turning there, let me give you the background of the story—It takes place while the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Balaam, a false prophet had been requested by Balak the king of Moab to meet with him so the two could talk over plans to curse the Israelites so that the Moabites could defeat them in battle and drive them back to Egypt.

Now, let's read the story in Numbers 22:22-33.

The reason I say that the leaders of God's people need to be like Balaam's donkey is because they need to see what no one else sees so as to know what to do and what to say in order to traverse divinely ordained challenges and obstacles.

Perhaps a more positive example and one more to the liking of potential leaders than being compared to Balaam's donkey is that of Elisha who when the town he was in was surrounded by the armies of the king of Aram, who planned to kill him and his assistant—was not at all worried much to the anxiety of his assistant. And in 2 Kings 6:15-17, you have the story of what happened.

Here is a great example of the kind of vision or spiritual insight that the man of God who is to lead God's people must have. While everyone else is like Elisha's assistant and looking at the problem—the leader needs to be like Elisha and be looking for God's solution to the problem.

Spiritual leaders who know their Bibles and know their God are prepared to see what others who are not in the Word and are not intimate with God do not and cannot see. And these are the kinds of men we need in leadership—men with spiritual vision and insight. And so, the big job for the spiritual leaders of any church and especially for the leader of the leaders is to have a sense of what kinds of conquests and challenges the Lord has in mind for the church he is to lead. He needs to see not only what must be accomplished but what could be accomplished.

I love the story about the grand opening of Disney World. Walt Disney, who we all know designed and was responsible for Disney World becoming a reality—died before it actually opened. So, his wife was asked to speak at the ceremonies. She was introduced by a man who said--”Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this.” She stood up and politely said: “He did” and then she sat down.

But the leader can't just see what can be—he must be able to communicate that vision and furthermore instill that vision in his church. And then he must be able to inspire his church to pursue that vision. And if the leaders do not inspire, who will? So, besides being men who can see what others can't see and who can communicate what they see so that others can now see it—spiritual leaders must also be able to lead their people and inspire their people from the Word of God and through the power of the Spirit of God to pursue that vision irregardless of how many obstacles and challenges are in the way.

Biblical leaders must lead people to live above and overcome their circumstances rather than to succumb to them. This was the failure of the ten spies sent out to Canaan who upon their return to the Israelites offered a negative and pessimistic report on their ability to conquer the land (Numbers 13:26-33). And just as this story illustrates, there will always be within any group of people and leaders those who will see the glass half empty rather than half full. These are the people who, regardless of what good is occurring or what the potential for good is, cannot help but find the negative in it. And keep in mind, whereas these kinds of people may make great managers who are responsible for quality control—they don't make the best leaders as Moses found out.

This is not to say that leaders keep a blind eye to problems. It is to say that good leaders, fully aware of the potential and real problems of any endeavor, see the possibilities and forge ahead inspiring others to follow. Too many want-to-be-leaders are spreading among God’s people “a bad report” causing the people to lose heart and give in to their circumstances. I like the Chinese proverb which says: “Man who says, 'it cannot be done' should not interrupt man doing it.”

You know, when it comes right down to the nuts and bolts of church or any kind of leadership, for that matter, the leader's attitude often makes more of a difference in the end than his aptitude. But, in order to inspire others the leader himself must be inspired and that requires spending lots of time with the Lord and Head of the Church—Jesus Christ. What inspires me for leadership is God and the fact that God's purpose and God's goals and God's vision is so huge that it requires His power to accomplish it and thus being the leader of God's people in pursuing God's plans gives me a front row seat to seeing God's power at work in the accomplishing of His purposes—and that inspires me.

But, keep in mind, however inspired the leader is and no matter how great he has been able to communicate God's vision for the church—he will never be able to inspire those—whose hearts he has not won because they do not trust him. You see, for a man to win the hearts of those he is to lead spiritually so that he can inspire them to follow his leadership in spiritual endeavors—he must be a man who has spiritual credibility.

So, while the leader needs to have a spiritual vision for his people that comes from God and needs to know how to implement that vision as well as instill that vision in the people he is leading—if he does not have the necessary spiritual credibility before his people--his leadership will fail in spite of the grandeur of his vision and ability to communicate it. And today if you'll turn with me to Joshua 1, we will see this truth as well as how Joshua gained the necessary spiritual credibility so as to truly become the spiritual leader of God's people. These passages contain three important truths regarding the need for spiritual credibility.

1.Unless God's people know that God is with the leader he will never become their real spiritual leader. (Joshua 1:17)

2.Unless God works in the leader's life so as to demonstrate that He is with him—the people will not have confidence that God is truly with him and he will never become their real spiritual leader. (Joshua 3:7, 17; 4:14)


3.Unless God is with the leader he will never ever truly become a real spiritual leader whose spiritual leadership is noteworthy. (Joshua 6:27)

So, this of course begs the question—What does the leader need to do in order for God to “demonstrate that He is with him” so as to give the leader the necessary spiritual credibility to lead God's people? Look at Joshua 1:1-9. God promises Joshua that He will be with him and that He will never fail him nor forsake him twice in these 9 verses. He promises Joshua in verse 5 that He will be with Joshua just as He was with Moses and that He will never fail nor forsake Joshua. He then reiterates this promise in verse 9. Thus, God promises Joshua that He will be with him but that truth alone—as powerful and as foundational as it is—will not give Joshua the necessary credibility he needs in the eyes of the people. You see, the people needed to see that God was with Joshua in order to know and believe that He was with Joshua.

Look at Joshua 3:7 and Joshua 4:14 again. Notice that God said in 3:7 that He would exalt Joshua that day “in the sight of all Israel” and according to 4:14 that is exactly what God did—He revealed to the people that He was with Joshua so that they would follow him. Now, while God's promise was enough for Joshua to move forward and lead—it had to be demonstrated to the people for them to move forward and follow. So, how did God reveal that He was with Joshua?

Well, essentially, He made Joshua look good by fulfilling what He said He would do if Joshua obeyed Him and did exactly what God told him to do. Look at Joshua 3:7-17.
You see, Joshua took God at His Word and then expected God's people to do the same.
And because he took God seriously and expected God's people to take God seriously—God exalted Joshua in the eyes of the people so that they were not only willing to follow his leadership—they wanted too! And this is exactly what God told Joshua in Joshua 1:5-9. After giving him the promise to be with him—God then tells Joshua in verses 7 to “be careful to do according to all the Law and not turn from it . . . . so that he would have success wherever he went.” Then in verse 8, God tells Joshua to “meditate upon the law day and night so as to be careful to obey all of it. . . . for then he would make his way prosperous and have success." And success at what—we might ask? Well in Joshua's case it was success as a leader—and in particular the leader of God's people. You see even though Joshua had God's word that he would be with him just as He was with Moses—the people needed to see that Joshua was with God and that he was being blessed by God because he was following God.

In essence, that which gives the spiritual leader the credibility he needs to lead God's people is that he has a heart that takes God's Word seriously and then expects God's people to take it seriously and then is careful to do exactly what God has said to do irregardless of the obstacles or dangers involved.

Now, does this mean that Joshua was a perfect leader who made no mistakes and never failed? No, not at all. In fact, he failed many times as a leader. Ai and Gilgal were two prime examples of his not being a “perfect leader”, but even in his failures—he, once he was convicted of his sin—did exactly what God had told him to do—he repented and confessed and took responsibility and never lost the spiritual credibility necessary to lead God's people.

The point is, when we give careful attention to the Word of God to obey it and to treat it as serious—we will have spiritual credibility in our station in life whatever that may be. And likewise, if we don't treat God's Word as Holy and we disobey it—we lose spiritual credibility.

CONCLUSION

When all is said and done—it is not a man's resume or educational degrees or ability to hold a congregation spellbound by his preaching that authenticates his spiritual leadership—rather it is whether or not he treats the Word of God with the seriousness and care it deserves and believes it and obeys it.

Indeed, “obedience is better than sacrifice” as Samuel the prophet stated to Saul, a man who because he did not obey God lacked spiritual credibility before God to lead His people inspite of the fact that he had great leadership potential.

You see, in the end—what makes a leader a spiritual leader and an effective leader and a leader in whom God is pleased to use is whether he has credibility with God first.

And if you find a man who has credibility with God because he spends time with God, takes God seriously, obeys God, loves God, and is willing to put it all on the line for God—you have found a man who is prepared to see what God wants him to see, who has the ability to communicate what he sees to you, and the spiritual credibility to lead you in accomplishing it.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13