Saturday, November 10, 2018

181111 Freedom from Sin

Romans 6:6-11, We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
When the average person hears the word “sin” what do they think it means? It’s essential that we understand what the word means if we would use it. So, sin is murder, rape, robbery, sexual immorality, and such like. The truth is sin is much more than that short list I just read. A good definition of the term is, “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in action, attitude or nature.” Sin is not just stealing or lying sin is also about attitudes that are different from God’s attitude.
Those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ have brought their sin to the foot of the cross. More than that! Believers have come themselves to the cross to die with Jesus so that Sin can be brought to nothing. Being a child of God allows us to be set free from slavery to sin. But we do have a problem! That problem is understanding what sin is all about.
Most teaching about sin emphasizes actions that are taken rather than attitudes that are held. Much Christian teaching emphasizes keeping rules that are usually called “the law”. The 10th commandment given to Moses by God helps us understand the rest of the
Old Testament commandments. Let’s look at Exodus 20:17. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Coveting does not involve doing anything that is seen outwardly. Coveting happens on the inside and may never be known to exist. We have been trained to live in society in an acceptable manner. As long as we act out the Christian life no one knows what goes on inside a person’s heart.
It’s true that many of the biblical laws speak of actions that we take. Moses presented the law the way God gave it to him. It is appropriate that the initial set of laws should be concluded with the motivation that is the basis of all the law. When Jesus was asked about the most important law he replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.… a second is like it you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37&39)
When Jesus answered this important question he pointed out that sin is not just breaking a rule or a law. The laws are deeply embedded in the inside of man. Throughout his ministry…
Jesus reinforces. Let’s look at these words from the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:21-22. You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Verse 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
These two examples show us what God’s original intent was. Based on Jesus’ words we can see that murder happens first in the heart and mind of the individual committing the crime. Anger, insults, harsh words always precede the act. Adultery is not just a physical act but does include that, adultery first happens in the heart and mind. Looking with lust is the beginning of adultery. Now, let me explain something, many people say that one sin is equal to any other sin. That is not true! It is true that all sin is wrong but variations of sin lead to different consequences.
When a person says that looking with lust is adultery the conclusion is sometimes drawn that you might as well go ahead commit the act of adultery. When a person looks with lust no one else knows about it. Oh yes, an onlooker, or the object of the look, might suspect what’s going on in the mind of the one who looks. But it does not have the same consequences as actually committing the sin. When a man goes ahead with his lustful desires he sins against the woman, his family (wife/children), the family of the object of his lust, as well as his social circle. The punishment for the actual act is going to be much worse than the punishment for the lustful thought.
Sin is seen in attitude. Look at this list from Galatians 5:20. Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
This partial list points out what’s going on inside the sinner. Idolatry may be acted out but it grows out of a covetous heart. Sorcery happens in the mind before it is publicly known. Enmity grows out of a hard attitude that leads to strife. Jealousy is an interior motive that leads to anger, rivalry, dissensions and divisions.
In the beginning, there was no sin. Let’s look at Genesis 1:31a. God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
 After each day of creation, the Bible tells us that God saw that it was good. After the sixth day when he looked on the totality of his creation, he said, “it was very good”. “Very good” involved the whole creation. There was no sin in the beginning. God’s creation was good and very good.
After the passage of time…
There was rebellion in heaven. Let’s look at Genesis 3:1-3. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
We do not know how much time passed but sometime between God’s statement that all was very good and the challenge place before Eve Satan rebelled. Part of his rebellion would be an attempt to bring the man and woman down from their position as God’s appointed caretakers for the earth.
When Satan came and challenged their trust in God they had already been given clear direction. The woman was deceived but her willingness to take the fruit indicated a lack of concern on her part for her relationship with God. Satan presented her with the idea that she could be like God. She did not believe that she would die if she ate the fruit. When God tells you that something is “surely” going to happen please remember he is God and completely in charge. God did not kill the man and woman in the garden because he intended the human race to continue. Obviously but intent involved us in our generation. So the man and woman could not die physically until they produced offspring. However, they did spiritually die because they were separated from God and the Garden!
We will come back to that little later. In the meantime let’s consider…
The consequence of evil described in Romans 5:12. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
Even though it was the woman who was deceived the Bible is very clear that the man was responsible for what happened. Adam was Eve’s spiritual guide. He was present when she was presented with the deception. He did nothing to stop it! The problem Adam and Eve faced was not a matter of “fruit” it was a matter of trust. They chose not to believe God.
The truth was challenged. Let’s look at Genesis 3:4. But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”
The one thing that Satan surely knew was that God does not lie! The Bible repeatedly tells us that God does not lie. However, Adam and Eve had not had enough experience with God. They should have believed. He had never failed them!
They had walked and talked with him daily and when they were given the opportunity to disobey him they took it. Sin begins in the heart or mind of a person. Our first ancestor certainly had plenty of opportunities to think about what was right and what was wrong. By the action they took…
Their sin changed the idea of right and wrong. Let’s read on Genesis 3:5-6. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Now we see the whole picture of sin entering the world. Not only did they give in to Satan’s temptations they condemned all their unborn children to spiritual death. Satan had promised that the when they ate of the fruit their eyes would be opened.
Their eyes were opened. Suddenly, they experienced shame. It was a shame brought on by their act of disobedience but it was reflected in their becoming aware that they were naked. It seems to me that until then they had always been clothed in the glory of God. They had no sense of shame before they sinned. Now let’s look at…
The Bible’s definition. Let’s read Romans 14:23. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
What Adam and Eve did in the garden certainly did not proceed from faith. So the Bible tells us that sin is everything that does not proceed from faith. We might look carefully at our own lives see where we are at with regard to sin. We need to cultivate a faith that believes God because he will always count it as righteousness if we have such a faith. The second part of the Bible’s definition is found in James 4:17. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
If you know something is right and you failed to do it that is sin. We can only be free from sin if we exercise our faith in Christ and follow him by doing the right thing.
Ultimately, sin is anything that comes into our life, or out of our hearts that does not agree with God. Sin begins with an attitude that says I will be ruler in my own life. For the human race sin began in the Garden of Eden. It soon spread to a war in heaven. That sin attitude is born into each one of us and becomes the factory that produces a multitude of activities that we call sin. John the apostle simply stated that all wrongdoing is sin. John also said, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”
(1 John 1:8-10) Remember, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

81104 The Path to Peace

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The first question in the Westminister Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” And the correct answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We are not commanded to seek peace with God instead the Bible tells us that we have peace with God! That peace, which passes all understanding, is a part of the gift of God given to us in Christ Jesus. John Piper changes the catechism statement to, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever!” How do we get to the place of peace that allows us to enjoy God forever? Let’s see if we can find out!
Paul wrote a promise to the Philippians. If we will put aside all anxiety and pour out our needs in prayer God will give us peace that passes all understanding. That peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Earlier in Romans, we find this assurance, “God’s kindness is meant to lead it… To repentance?” (Romans 2:4). When we think of the peace coming from God and couple that to his kindness leading us to repentance we must recognize that God will allow us to suffer many things in order to bring us to repentance.
Many times we have found ourselves being drawn into rebellion against God. The word of God tells us that instead of preventing us from doing wrong God will let us go as deeply as necessary to see the need for repentance. Often we find ourselves facing the fact that…
God gave us up. Let’s look at three different verses found in Romans one. First, men have always rejected God because it is a natural tendency. In human wisdom, we often become fools who worship the creation rather than the creator. Look at Romans 1:24. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. When men rebel against God he will give them up so they can see how bad it is. If we do not repent God will let us go even deeper. Verse 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. And then, if they do not return to him. Verse 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
It seems to me that this threefold descent into depravity pretty much describes the world we live in. And, if we are not very careful, even represents many who are part of the church! The natural tendency of the human race is to rebel against God. We cannot rescue ourselves! God has to work in our life so that we can know him. We have all sinned, believer and unbeliever alike. But we who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have a new experience.
We have been justified. Let’s turn to Romans 3:23-26. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
We have already seen that everyone begins their lives separated from God. In that condition, God gives us up to the consequences of our own sin. No matter how we might struggle to be “better” we always fall short until God comes into our lives in a special way. God’s grace gift to us is called “justification”. The only hope that we have will come about by faith in Jesus. Before we came to know Christ we were subject to God’s wrath! We can never ever escape God’s wrath without a sufficient offering of atonement. That offering, or sacrifice, is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Greek Old Testament, the word “propitiation” is often used to signify the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. That was the place where the priest came once a year to sprinkle blood seven times to make atonement for the people. This resulted in turning away God’s wrath. This ceremony pictures the fact that a broken law – represented by the Ten Commandments — stood between God and man. Once the blood was placed on the mercy seat God could be merciful to those who only deserved judgment. Christ is our mercy seat or propitiation turning aside God’s wrath.
All of this is…
Resulting in peace. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:13-14. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. We were once eternally separated from God! The blood of Christ, who is our peace, has satisfied God’s wrath. This truth is explained further in Colossians 1:19-20. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The fullness of God describes Jesus as the Christ. The Bible is very clear Jesus is fully man and fully God at the same time. In order for his sacrifice on the cross to be sufficient for our sins he had to be God! At the same time he had to be man in order to be our substitute. There is so much that I need to share! Jesus took on flesh in order to destroy our enemy and set us free. The only hope mankind has is the fact that the death of Jesus was a substitute sacrifice for mankind. We are reminded in Ephesians that we were dead in trespasses and sins. In our own strength and ability we deserve eternal separation from God.
The sacrifice of Jesus brings about peace between God and man. It is our only hope! That hope was…
Promised by the Angels. Let’s look at Luke 2:13-14. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture. It is repeated billions of times around the world at Christmas time. An angel came to tell shepherds that the Christ had been born in Bethlehem. Then the sky filled with a host of angels singing glory to God in the highest and on earth peace! This promise should bring us to want to know more about that peace. Yet most of the world celebrates Christmas in one way or another often with hardly any mention of the baby that was born to set us free from our sin! Personally, I like the Hallmark Channel! I am disappointed at how many different ways Christmas can be portrayed on film with almost no mention of Christ. In China Christmas is not a public holiday but it is still celebrated across the officially atheistic country. Christmas is an important holiday in Japan even though the population is almost completely non-Christian!
The world knows that the Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem!
Our path is not easy. Jesus himself told us in John 16:33. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus’ promised peace is not easily achieved. There is no promise that that peace will be easy. Instead, we are promised tribulation. When Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.” He is not promising that he will take away the tribulation. We are not promised to be kept from the storms of life we are promised to be kept IN the storms. For those who are looking for a soft spot in the world I would suggest that you feel of the top of your head.
Our path is not easy but…
There is purpose in our path. Let’s turn to James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Our opening text tells us that we have peace with God as a result of faith. That peace allows us to rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. We are also to rejoice in our sufferings! Suffering produces endurance! Endurance produces character! Character produces hope! And hope sets us free from shame.
James probably wrote before Paul did. In fact, James may have been one of the earliest letters of the New Testament. Paul may have been thinking of these words of James. James encourages us to deal with trials — remember Jesus promised us tribulation — with rejoicing! Count it all joy! Personally, I’m more inclined to rejoice when things appear to be going right rather than when I’m facing trials and temptations. But we should recognize that faith testing produces a stability that we need in our day-to-day life. Rather than fighting against our trials, we need to let them do their work in our lives!
Our hope is centered on the concept…
God is for us. Let’s look at Romans 8:35-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the verses before this Paul has given us assurance that God is for us. He is for us in all that he does. We may be defeated in our day-to-day struggles but evil will not win because God is for us! We are always being led in Jesus’ victory procession. We need to remember, “God is for us!” Make it personal! God is for Waylen Bray. Now, repeat after me God is for (fill in the blank with your own name) ____________ !
God will not allow anything to condemn us. We need not fear he is on our side! And then we see that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! When Paul wrote these words he was practically writing his own biography. He had been faced with death again and again. He had been surrounded by enemies from the beginning of his Christian walk. He certainly had experienced everything that he presents here. In Christ Jesus we are “Super Conquerors”.
This word should be very encouraging to us. John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, said that he was very sad one day when the word suddenly came to him, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” He then modestly added, “That was a help to me.”
We have peace with God because of the grace of God. God’s grace is the gift of blessings and favor that we do not deserve. Part of God’s grace is granted to all people. Since all people are born separated from God — not by God’s choice — by our birth into the human race. We are the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such we are born separated from God. It is unnatural for us to experience peace until we enter into saving grace. We are saved by grace through faith and that is a gift of God! In salvation, we should break free from the bondage of sin. However, we still have in our human nature the old habits and we need to be set free from them. That is the grace of God at work in us! Being justified by faith we have peace with God! When we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord!” we are saved and set free. Is he your Lord? Have you learned to live in his peace? We will look at this further next week. God willing!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.