Saturday, November 24, 2018

181125 Freedom in Christ

Romans 7:1- 5 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
Before Christ came into the world humans were bound by the law. I am not talking about the Old Testament law alone. Before any law was presented in the Bible there was always a moral law that everyone understood. In this illustration, Paul uses marriage to show how we relate to law. When he wrote this he was living as a Jew under Roman law. In that world, a woman was bound to her husband for life. The only way she could be free was for her husband to die. Death is necessary for there to be freedom from the bondage of the law. In Paul’s example, the woman is the believer and the law is the husband. The law cannot die — it is eternal! In order to be free, the woman dies to the law and is set free. This is a difficult concept but it is God’s not ours.
Let me explain what I understand to be the message God wants to reveal here. Since the law cannot die to free us it is necessary for us, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to die to that relationship. In this illustration, the law would be the husband and the believer would be the woman. We realize that the woman can’t die and thereby end the power of sin it is necessary that we are declared dead. Every illustration that we might use is going be imperfect. But let’s try this one out.
I once heard the story of a man who was faced with being drafted into the Confederate Army during the Civil War. We'll call him George. George had a wife and children and of course, did not want to go. His neighbor, we'll call Tom, was the same age, was unmarried and had not yet been called up for the draft. Tom came to George and said,I will go in your place. He then went to the county seat with the draft papers in hand and was enlisted in the Army as George. A few months later Tom, now called George, died on the field of battle. His death certificate was sent back to the County seat where he lived. In the course of time, the Army was desperate for soldiers. They sent out patrols looking for men who should have been drafted. They found George plowing a field one day and arrested him as a draft dodger. He was taken to the county seat and put in jail. George asked the judge to look at the death certificates. When he did he found that George was legally dead. The judge sent him home to his family because as far as the law was concerned he had already died.
In a similar manner, our marriage to the law is dissolved because of the work of Christ on the cross. We are free to serve God in the new way of the Spirit. Instead of despair, there is joy! Instead of bondage, there is freedom! Instead of death, there is life! We no longer belong to the law but to Christ.
We can only be released by death. Let’s look at Romans 7:6. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
We have already seen, in the previous chapters in Romans, that Sin came into the world by Adam the first man. Spiritual death was the result of man’s rebellion against God. For those who did not sin in exactly the same manner as Adam, we are told that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he explained that the law was a schoolmaster, or guardian, to bring us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.
The law does serve a purpose in our lives…
 The law reveals sin, let’s look at Romans 7:7. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
It seems that this section of Romans is autobiographical. We can see that Paul’s personal experience could be paralleled to Romans seven. The revealing of sin in his life would have happened about the time of his Bar Mitzvah. Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony bringing a young man to maturity. The meaning is making him a son of the Law. While preparing himself for this Jewish ceremony Saul, later to be named Paul, would have done pretty well until he reached the 10th commandment. Commandment number 10 says “you shall not covet”. As he struggled with this concept he saw that all of the other commandments depend upon the 10th. From that point on in his life, he became conscious of sin. James tells us that the law is a mirror revealing the inner man. What a gift! The law reveals sin and…
Then the law activates sin. Let’s read on Romans 7:8-9. But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
Poor young Saul! Once he realized what covetousness was all he could do would not stop coveting in his life. Other places in Scripture we find this same concept. Romans 5:20 tells us that “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:56 we are told that “The power of sin is the law.” Augustine of Hippo, a North African pastor 1500 years ago described his experience in his story: There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it and carry our spoils away. We took off a huge load of pears … not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my wretched soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply in order to become a thief. The only feast I got was a feast of iniquity, and that I enjoyed to the full. What was it that I loved in that theft? Was it the pleasure of acting against the law, in order that I, a prisoner under rules, might have a maimed counterfeit of freedom by doing what was forbidden, with a dim similitude of omnipotence? The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing.
Things have not changed much in the last 1500 years. The law says “don’t covet” and our human nature says “that’s exciting”! The law reveals sin, and the law activates sin…
Next, the law brings about death. We see the consequences in Romans 7:10-11. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Men had searched the Scriptures for thousands of years since the time of Moses and had failed to experience the freedom that was promised. The way Jesus put it to the Pharisees was “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39). When Paul and Silas came to Berea they found “noble-minded” disciples who searched the Scriptures daily to see if Paul’s and Silas’s teachings were true (Acts 17:11). These men learned from Paul how to allow the Scripture to lead them to Christ.
The law revealed sin and activated it. Then as they studied the word they understood that the law could bring life but only if it was perfectly followed (Leviticus 18:5). That same law, when broken, brings about death. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). As we grow in the Lord the process of sanctification leads us to see how thoroughly sinful we are.
We have learned about the bondage of sin that cannot be broken by keeping the law. Now, we learn that the sin that inhabits us is not made less but is made greater than before it was revealed!
We learn of the existence of sin and…
Now, the law reveals the depth of sin. Let’s read on, Romans 7:12-13. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
The sin that is revealed and activated causes us to recognize how bad it really is. The law is holy and as such is righteous and good. So that sin leads us to death. Satan would like to use our own nature against us. He can lead us aside for a time. A believer who is truly born again will soon catch on to the acts of the enemy. The law, in and of itself, cannot bring us to total victory instead it will bring us to defeat. In that defeat, we will come to see how important it is for us to have a Savior.
Indwelling sin reveals our need for Christ. Let’s read on, Romans 7:14-17. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Paul is not trying to excuse himself, or us, he is simply admitting that sin still dwells in us. He has tried to live up to God’s standards in his own strength. Friends, that cannot be done. If there is any remote possibility that we could save ourselves then Christ died for nothing.
Think with me back to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus is facing the horrible prospect of becoming sin for us. We must admit that of all the humans that have ever lived on planet earth none are more qualified than Jesus to have their prayers heard. Part of the prayer that he offered in the garden was, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). He wasn’t speaking about the horror of being beaten nearly to death and then nailed to the cross and lifted up from the earth. I believe he was speaking of becoming sin for us. The Bible tells us that, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24) I don’t know that we can ever conceive how horrible it was for Jesus to become sin. He had no sin of his own so that he could take our sin and pay the price. If he had not said “if it be possible” I believe the Father would have taken him from that garden and destroyed the world. But instead, Jesus paid the price and set us free. He did that so that we could be saved. There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. There is no other way of salvation. If there were such a way then Jesus’ prayer would’ve activated it. We cannot deliver ourselves…
Our deliverance is outside our self. Let’s read on, Romans 7:24-25. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Having struggled with the problem of sin in himself Paul now throws up his hands and asked the question, “who can deliver me?” Then he rushes on to the answer, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The only hope we have is found in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Mike Pompeo, the current Secretary of State, has said that the only hope of the world is The Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing mankind can do to give hope. Our only hope is in God’s Son our Savior.
From the beginning, there was always one plan. God did not find himself wondering what to do when Adam and Eve fell into sin. He already had provision for that! The Bible tells us that God wrote the names of his people in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain before he created the earth.
We died to the law and our old way of living before we were born.
When Jesus died we died with him. Let’s read Romans 6:6. 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.
When Jesus died we died with him! Oh, I know, we don’t remember that happening. But I know it happened because God said it did. Our old self — old man — was considered to be with Jesus when he died. Now, this is not some imaginary idea it is settled truth given to us by God himself. If God considers it to be true IT’S TRUE! There is a saying that often has been posted in churches it goes like this: God said it; I believe it; that settles it! Sounds like a good thing but it is not true. God said it and that settles it! My believing it is good but not necessary. Remember…
The law condemned us to death with him. Let’s read Galatians 2:19-20. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We died to the law so we could live to Christ. When Jesus was crucified he took us to death as well. The life God is developing in us is the life of Christ. Eternal life is not just an extension of our current earth life it is bringing Christ’s life into our life. The life we now live existed before the creation of the world and will continue forever with God in glory.
We should praise God that we are able to agree with God about our death to sin. We have come to live a new life because everything about our former self died with Christ on the cross. God could not associate with us in our natural condition. The old sinner, our spiritual identity, was executed on the cross and was replaced by a lovely, new, godly Saint. Have you felt God’s call to salvation? Have you responded to that call? Today could be your new birth.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

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.