How to change, part seven

10 Jan

I want us to keep talking about holiness.

We are in the middle of a series where we are looking at the Bible and asking, how do people change?

Or.

If you want a big theological word you could say we are talking about sanctification.

And.

Sanctification, basically just means to set apart or to make holy and so we are thinking about how God takes sinful people and actually makes them holy and it would be hard for us to talk very long about this whole subject without looking at Romans chapter 6.

Because.

This is a very important chapter in the Bible on sanctification and really if we were going to do a good job, we should talk about all of.

Romans chapter 6 through 8.

Because.

This is just one of the most important passages in the entire Scripture on the nature of the Christian life.

Some would say it’s Paul’s most extended, pointed, practical discussion of how you actually go about overcoming sin.

And you’ll see it all begins with a question.

There’s a question in Romans, 6 verse 1.

 And then, Paul’s answer in verses 2 through 10.

 And then a specific application in verses 11 through 14.

But this passage begins with and revolves around a question.

“What shall we say then?” Paul writes, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”

And to show us how important a question this is, he asks it again in verse 15.

“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”

Now this seems to be a way Paul seems to like to teach. Giving a truth. And then asking some questions. In Romans, at least.

And.

I am thankful.

He does.

I am glad he takes this approach especially to this whole discussion, we are having, of overcoming sin and pursuing holiness because obviously, when it comes to this particular subject, of, how to live the Christian life out people have a lot of questions.

Maybe you have some questions.

As you look at the gospel and look at your life, and you think about pursuing holiness, and making some changes.

And one of the questions I find people tend to ask, and it’s not really the question Paul is asking here.

But, sometimes when people start trying to change, they start asking themselves, do other people actually struggle the way I do?

In fact.

I wonder if you have ever felt like that?

While we are going to look at what Paul says about overcoming sin, I want you to know, that’s it normal for people to struggle.

Even godly people struggle. Even the apostle Paul, struggled.

I mean.

We are going to be looking at Romans 6, but listen to what he says about himself in Romans 7.

Verse 18.

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

And I think actually Paul’s describing his experience here, as a Christian. I think he’s describing how he struggled with this reality   of indwelling sin.

It was like a law for him.

The way it is for you.

And for me.

This Christian life.

Is a struggle.

It is a fight.

And I think, we always need to remember as we talk about holiness that Jesus came to save sinners.

Real sinners.

Jesus never one saved a good person.

And I want to stress that.

Because another very common question people often are asking as they are beginning to see their sin, is whether or not God could actually really love someone like them.

With the things they did.

And even the things they do.

I mean.

Sometimes people feel alone, because they don’t understand the nature of the Christian life. It’s a struggle. And sometimes they feel hopeless, because they don’t understand how good God’s been in the gospel.

It’s grace.

It’s all grace.

Which of course.

Is.

The whole message, Paul’s been pounding home, all throughout Romans. Romans is about justification by grace through faith, which is another one of those big words, but basically it means that everyone’s so bad.

They need a Savior.

Gentiles, Jews, religious people, irreligious, people.

All of us.

Have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, which means that.

The only hope for any of us.

To be right with God.

Is Jesus and what He’s done.

It’s not our obedience to God’s commands that are going to save us. It’s going to be His.

And.

To illustrate that.

In chapter 5.

Paul uses an illustration.

This is a chapter basically about assurance.

And to assure us that our relationship with God is certain, Paul says you can think of the whole world as being represented by two different people.

Imagine.

If you are living in a kingdom, maybe, that king represents you. In other words, his choices impact your entire life, basically.

So.

He’s like your head.

Which means, for example, if he decides to go to war, the whole country goes to war because he represents the country.

And.

In God’s eyes.

It kind of works like that.

But, there are only two possible representatives and the first, was a man named Adam. Adam was chosen to serve as a representative of the entire human race, away back at the beginning of the world, and as a result, his choices impacted us all, and as we know, because Adam chose sin, we are all born spiritually dead.

We experience the consequences of his disobedience, which is why of course, no matter how much instruction God gave us, we couldn’t actually fix what was wrong with us, because we are all born fundamentally broken.

And in fact.

As we look at the history of the human race we see that the more commands God gave us, the more He revealed about what He wanted from us, the more we turned away from Him and did whatever we wanted instead.

Which is why, God’s grace is just so stunning.

Because He didn’t leave it at that. He didn’t end it with Adam. He sent His Son into the world to serve as our representative, and where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. He came and lived an absolutely perfect life, not simply for Himself, but in the place of those who would put their faith in Him.

And this is deep.

But.

We are all born under Adam, suffering the consequences of his choices as our representative head and we are transferred into Jesus’ kingdom, you might say, through faith, and for those of us who believe, its’ Jesus now, and his life and his choices, who represent us.

Before God.

And that’s really good news, of course.

It’s what gives us this absolute and total assurance, in terms of our relationship with God, because we know, we don’t stand before Him on the basis of our own performance.

But instead, it is Jesus’ absolute perfection He’s looking at.

When He looks at us.

Which is why Paul’s just marveling.

In

Romans.

And.

Especially.

Verse 20.

This is like’s he coming to the high point, when he says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass…”

And.

Trespass. Means sin.

The law, which Paul loved, of course, because that’s God’s commands, actually only increased sin.

If you think about.

If you look back to the Old Testament.

The first part of the Bible.

You’ll see in spite of all the privileges God gave the people of Israel. It didn’t take them long to turn their back on God’s Word. They were doing it from the beginning, actually, which is significant.

For those of us who are getting discouraged.

Because.

It means.

If we are going to be rescued and have peace with God, it’s always going to have be God’s grace that does it. It’s never going to be the law that saves us. It can’t be. It’s not going to be our ability to obey the law that does it. If it were just us and God’s law, the only thing we get, is more and more sin.

So.

Obviously.

God’s going to have to come up with a plan that can do what the law cannot, and Paul’s point, as we look throughout Romans, is that as we look back at what the gospel says about Jesus, that’s exactly what God did. He responded to all the sin and rebellion He was seeing with an astounding demonstration of His kindness. In fact, it’s kind of like man’s rebellion, only set the stage, to show God’s grace more clearly, when God sent Jesus into the world to do what we as people could not.

By obeying the law for us.

And taking the punishment of sin in our place, which of course, is what makes the gospel message, such good news.

It’s what makes the gospel exciting.

For Paul.

As he says.

In Romans 5, verse 20 and 21.

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. “

And so obviously.

If you are looking at your life and the way you are sinning and beginning to wonder if you are the only one who struggles, or if your particular sins, means God can’t save you, or love you, then, I want to encourage you.

The gospel is better than that.

Much better.

No matter how sinful you’ve been, or are, God’s grace is going to be bigger than your sinfulness.

In fact.

Biblically, we see, the more man sinned, the more God showed how kind He was.

It’s like where sin abounded.

Grace super-abounded.

And that’s a big part of the point of Romans, actually.

It’s encouraging.

The gospel is for sinners, and yet at the same time, while that is so true, and so encouraging, I was thinking, especially as we are looking at the particular question Paul is asking here at the beginning of chapter 6, that sin.

Is just an amazing liar.

Because.

Sin can take the best truth, and get you to believe a lie about it, and so I also probably need to warn you.

I can’t just encourage you.

I need to warn you.

If you are struggling with sin, I want you to be careful.

As you are struggling.

 Not.

 To allow your struggles.

 To cause you to start believing things that just aren’t true.

That just aren’t.

Even.

Real.

Because.

If.

Sin can’t get you to become hopeless about your relationship with God by forgetting that the gospel is about grace. It’s going try to distort that gospel and what it teaches about grace to get you to give up your pursuit of holiness.

To get you.

To start thinking.

That, maybe, how you live, doesn’t really matter.

And.

Now we are at the heart of the question Paul’s asking.

Here.

In Romans 6.

Which, we’ll look at in our next post on how to change.

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