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Sunday, August 31, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "All Roads Lead to Romans"

“All Roads Lead to Romans”
August 31, 2014 :: Romans 1:1-7

I’ve been putting off this sermon series for about 16 and half years now.

Romans is a glorious book, but it is not an easy book.

Romans has 16 tightly argued chapters from the brilliant Apostle Paul.  Some law schools have used Romans as a textbook to teach lawyers how to make a logical and persuasive argument.

It’s an amazing book, but it’s been compared to Mount Everest. You don’t just decide one day to climb Mount Everest. You work up to it.

And I’ve been working up to preaching Romans for 16 and a half years.

Some pastors get almost lost in Romans. One of my pastor heroes is John Piper. He took 8 years of sermons to preach all the way through the book.

Don’t worry!  We won’t spend 8 years here, though it would be good for us.

I think we might spend this whole school year in Romans, though. Maybe a whole twelve months. We’ll see. It might go faster. There will be places where we take great big chunks at once and then at other times, we’ll just take one verse at a time.  Today, we’re not going to get past the “Hello” at the beginning.

But we’re going to marinate in this book, that’s for sure.

So, if I’ve been working up to this now for 16 and half years, why NOW?

Why tackle Romans together now?

Well, for one reason, I realized this Summer that I will never feel adequately prepared to preach Romans. I have a stack of books, almost as large as my wingspan in my office just on the book of Romans, and I’ll never read everything there is to read there, much less everything that has been written.

And I’ll never master all of the arguments.

And I’ll never settle all of the controversial interpretative questions there are.

I’ll never master Romans, so why wait?

But the bigger reason is that Romans speaks God’s truth to so much in our lives today.

Romans helps us to understand so much about what is going on in our world.

Romans is such a robust explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that it touches just about everything!

You’ve heard the old expression, “All Roads Lead to Rome?”

Well, I’m saying “All Roads Lead to Romans.”

All roads lead into and out of the Letter to the Romans.

Now, I’m not saying that Romans is the best book in the Bible. There isn’t such a thing. You’re not supposed to pit one book against another. Each one is God’s Word.

However, there is a priority to them. Romans serves in the Bible as a nexus, a crossroads, a critical juncture where phenomenally humongous doctrines meet and connect with life.

It’s very important.

While I’ve never preached all the way through it, I’ve quoted Romans almost weekly for the last 16 and half years.

Romans is imminently quotable.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is...”

“The wages of sin is...”

“All have sinned and fallen...”

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners...”

“Therefore there is no no...”

“If God is for us...”

“Who shall separate us...”

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead...”

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as ...”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome...”

You love Romans!

You love the truth of Romans.

But Romans isn’t just a string of beautiful but random verses. It’s a letter. And we need to take in the whole thing.

All roads lead to Romans.

Do you want to understand homosexuality?

That’s hot-button issue today. And it’s only going to get hotter.

After we came back from Challenge, a number of you asked me to teach here what I taught there on same sex attraction.

Romans addresses it.

Do you want to know what’s wrong with the world?

Romans addresses it.  It explains to us how broken our world is and why.  And what God is doing about it.

Do you want to know what’s wrong with people?

Romans addresses that. Romans explains what is wrong with us and what God is doing about it.

Do you want to know how to get along with others?

Romans addresses that. It was written for Christians who were having trouble working out their relationships, especially between two cultures: Jew and Gentile.  Jews having been the historical recipients of God’s gifts and Gentiles who had apparently become the majority here in Rome.

They are very different. More different than the Republicans and the Democrats.

How will they do church together?

Romans addresses that.

Do you want to know how to be a new person?

Romans speaks to that.  It’s all about change from the old you to the new you. That picture of baptism. Down, down, down in death to the old and up, up, up to new life.

And then really living that new life.

Do you want to know what the Holy Spirit is up to in this day and age?

Romans tells us.

Do you want to know how to relate to government? Whether or not you have to pay your taxes. Whether or not you have to obey the speed limit.

Romans addresses that.

Do you want to know how important missions is?

We’ve just had a great month of missions here with McGills, Magills, O’Briens, and Ileases.  How important is what they are doing? How important is it that we support them?

Romans addresses that.

All roads lead to Romans.

Do you want to know how to be right with God? How to be saved? How to be justified?

Romans gives us the gospel.

I could go on. The reason why we are tackling Romans now is because we need it.

Earlier this Summer, I felt that the Lord was forcibly moving me from avoiding this book (always studying it but never preaching it) to embracing it and preaching it for you.

The bottom line reason why we’re beginning Romans in the Fall of 2014 is that I love you and I want the gospel truth of Romans for your lives.  And much deeper than that, God loves us and wants the gospel truth of Romans for our lives.

Now, one of the most important things that I want you to get this week in Romans is that Romans is a letter.

I know that’s obvious, but we don’t tend to treat Romans that way.

Romans is a letter.

We tend to think about Romans being a theology book.

And there’s good reason for that. It’s full of theology!

But that theology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It got written into a letter.

It was a letter from someone to someone(s) and about something.

Romans is a letter.

It’s not a string of powerful verses chained together.

It’s a letter.

And today, I want to show you 3 things about this letter from the greeting in the first seven verses.

#1. It’s a Letter from Paul.
#2. It’s a Letter About the Gospel About God’s Son.
#3. It’s a Letter to the Romans Christians.

Let’s take those in order.

#1. ROMANS IS A LETTER FROM PAUL.

Now, I know that’s not a very life-changing sentence, but bear with me.

Look at verse 1. People back then started their letter by telling you whom they were from. A lot like emails are today.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”

Do you remember a few years ago when we studied the book of Acts together?

We met Paul back then. I have preached a few but not most of Paul’s letters of the last 16 years.

Paul was a changed man. He was a devout Jew and a staunch enemy of Christians.

And then God knocked him off of his horse and changed his life.

Now, he describes himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. That’s taking a low place but also an apostle of Christ Jesus–that’s an authorized representative.

He may be a slave, but he’s a slave of Jesus. And he’s bringing an authoritative word from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most scholars believe that Paul wrote Romans between the years 55 to 58 AD. And it’s likely that he wrote it from Corinth, possibly around the time recounted in Acts chapter 20.

Paul has never yet been to Rome, and so he writes the longest greeting of any of his letters because he’s introducing himself and his understanding of the gospel to the Roman Christians.

Paul says that he is (v.1) “set apart for the gospel of God.”

Now, we need to get this. Romans is not a stodgy book. Paul is an incredibly passionate man. He writes with logic, and reason, and arguments. But they are not dispassionate logic, reason, and arguments. They are logic, reason, and arguments ON FIRE!

When Paul says that he is sret apart of the gospel of God. He couldn’t be any more excited about it. And he couldn’t think of a greater subject to be excited about.

Anyone excited that football has begun?

Anyone set apart for the good news of football?

Paul was set apart for the gospel (the good news) of GOD!

And that’s what this letter is all about.

#2. ROMANS IS A LETTER ABOUT THE GOSPEL ABOUT GOD’S SON.

Paul goes on to describe it. V.2

“...the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures...”

This is not a new thing. This gospel didn’t come out of nowhere.

There are new aspects to it. There are surprises. There were mysteries.

But it’s been promised before in the Bible. And (v.3), it’s a gospel “regarding his [God’s] Son.”

This is good news about Someone. A Someone with a capital “S.”

And Paul divides the life of this Son of God into two phases. V.3

“[the gospel]...regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,”

Anybody read first or second Samuel recently?

Remember how we said that when we saw David at his best, he was pointing us to his greater Son who was to come?

Remember those promises that God made to David in 2 Samuel 7?

They are fulfilled in this gospel about this Son. Who “as to his human nature was a descendant of David...” (V.4)

“....and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you feel how excited Paul is about this Person?

He is not saying that Jesus became the Son of God by being resurrected.

He’s already the Son who took on flesh.

He’s saying that the resurrection catapulted Jesus into a new phase of life, resurrection life.  “The Son of God in Power.”

Jesus is declared, appointed, recognized, enthroned as the Powerful Son of God resurrected from the dead!

He is “Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

Jesus = humanity.
Christ = annointed savior.
Our = belonging
Lord = king over all.

That’s whom this gospel is about. Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Are you excited about Him?

Is He the most important person in your life?

Is He what your gospel is all about?

You know, we all have a gospel. Even those who don’t believe the real gospel have a gospel they believe.

What they think is wrong with the world and what they think will fix it.

What’s your gospel about?

Some people think that if we could just get rid of one set of politicians and put in another set, then everything would be good.  Whichever party you want. Politics is all gospels.

Some people think that education is the Savior.

Some people think that guns are the gospel.

Some people think that music is the answer.

Some people believe that love makes the world go around.

But Paul’s gospel was centered on the person of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

And it was from Him and for Him that Paul did his ministry. V.5

“Through him [Jesus] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”

It was from Jesus and for Jesus that Paul did his ministry.

Jesus gave Paul the grace (the gift) and the apostleship (the commissioning) to go out to the Gentiles (that’s important, by the way) to call them to trust and obey Jesus.

Paul was a Jew.

But God had gifted and called Paul to share the gospel about God’s Son with the non-Jews. The Gentiles.

And to call them, specifically, to believe in Jesus.

And out of that belief, that faith, to obey to Jesus.

The NIV translates it, “the obedience that comes from faith.”

I think that’s right. It could be just “the obedience of faith” which could be taken many ways, but I think that’s right. We obey because we believe.

Faith and obedience go together. We trust God and that changes the way we live.

We trust in God’s gospel, and we are saved.

We trust in God’s gospel, and we are changed.

And here’s where Paul gets personal. V.6

“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

#3. ROMANS IS A LETTER TO ALL THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS.

Paul says that these folks in Rome (which is the center of their geo-political world, by the way) are called (effectually, God called and it happened) called to Jesus Christ.

And not just some of them, but all of those in Rome who are Christians.

Jew and Gentile.

If they had a more Jewish church on one end of town and more Gentile church on another, it was both of them.

If they had a church that was led by Gentiles but had some Jews that were a part of it, it was to all of them.

A few years before this, all of the Jews had been kicked out of Rome. About a decade before this.

It was probably Jews that started this church. Most of the first Christians were Jews.

But then they had to go and the churches were then led by the Gentiles who had converted.

Now the Jews are allowed back but maybe they aren’t in charge any more.

In fact, maybe the Gentiles are wondering if they really need all that Jewish stuff any more.

And the Jews who had it first and who still loved their traditions, their law, the promises, their Jewishnes–maybe they weren’t too sure about those Gentiles.

But this letter is for ALL.

This gospel is for ALL.

The people in this room are very different from one another.

We have different skin colors.
We have different languages that we speak.
We have different political parties represented here.
Some of you are sure that President Obama is a closet Muslim.
Some of you voted for President Obama, and love him, and would love to get to vote for him again.
Some of you love football.
Some of you love hunting.
Some of you hate hunting.
Some of you love Country Music and some of you love Rap and Hip Hop.
And some of you love Opera.

I could go on. All you need is to do is listen for a while to see how different we can be.

The people in this room are very different from one another.

But this letter, this gospel is for ALL Christians.

We who believe this are ONE in Christ.

The gospel brings us together by bringing us all to the same Savior.

And here’s where I want this to get really personal and applicational.

Do you see how Paul describes those Roman Christians?  V.7

Those “who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

Loved by God and called to be saints.

Christian, you are loved by God.

My wish for you over the next however-many-months-it-takes-to-study-Romans is that after every sermon you walk out of here saying, “I am loved by God.”

“I am loved by God.”

Paul is saying that the Christians (all of them!) in Rome are beloved of God.

Do you know that about yourself?

Do you know how good the gospel is?

How good the good news is?

That Jesus Christ died for you?

That Jesus Christ–Who was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection–did that for you?

And that you, because of what He did, are saved from God’s wrath and given Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ status?

So that God loves you like He loves His Son?

Every day this week. I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I am loved by God.”

Not because of how good you are or because of what you have done, but because of what Jesus has done.

“I am loved by God.”

Now, remember this–that’s true of all Christians. All those who believe the true gospel and being changed into the image of Christ.

All the ones that you and I might not like or want to be around.

They are loved by God, too.

And that should affect how we treat them, shouldn’t it?

And every day this week, I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I am loved by God.”

On the authority of God’s word. Because that’s where the Romans road leads.

But it doesn’t stop there, does it?  V.7 again.

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

Now, some of you were taught in your religious upbringing that saints were super-Christians.

But there aren’t any super-Christians. There are just Christians.

A saint is a holy-one. A set-apart person.

Someone that Jesus has set apart for Himself and wants them to live holy.

Called to live a holy life. That’s what a saint is, and it’s for ALL who were in Rome.

And it’s for all of us.

If you are beloved of God, then you will become like God.

You will want to be like God. You will want to be holy.

And you’re called to it.

The gospel meets us we are and then changes us.

Are you living a holy life?

You and I are called to live holy.

We are called to say, “No” to sin and “Yes” to righteousness.

That’s what it means to live as a Christian.

Loved and holy.

Loved and holy.

And this is Paul’s message to them as he starts this amazing letter, perhaps the most amazing letter ever written, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace, God’s unmerited favor and blessing.

And Peace, God’s wholeness and health and serenity and restored fellowship with Him.

Grace and peace, from the God whose gospel is about His Son.


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Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans

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