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Sunday, January 25, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ"

“A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ”
All Roads Lead to Romans
January 25, 2014 :: Romans 7:1-25

I’ve entitled this message, “A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Does that phrase sound familiar to you?

Just last month, our church family decided to officially change our purpose statement for Lanse Free Church to include that phrase:

“Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.”

It used to say, “a love relationship with Jesus Christ,” and we still believe in that–being loved by Jesus and loving Him back.

But for some people the phrase, “a love relationship” might sound kind of romantic, and we don’t want to give people the wrong idea, so we’ve changed it to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s what we are about.

And as I was reading and re-reading and re-re-reading Romans 7, that’s what jumped out at me the most. Romans 7 (along with the rest of Romans!) is about how God is in the process of changing our lives forever because we are related to, connected to the Lord Jesus Christ.

And in Romans 7, there are two main ways that being related to Jesus has changed and will change our lives which I want to point out to you today. And those two changes will serve as our main applications for this chapter.

Romans 7 is about the Law.

You and I don’t tend to give much thought to the Mosaic Law, but as we’ve seen again and again, it’s never far from Paul’s mind in the book of Romans.

Paul has said a lot of short but powerful things about the Law so far.

Romans 2 was about how those who have the law don’t keep it and are under sin at least as much as those who do not have law.

Romans 3 said that the gospel of Jesus proclaims that a righteousness from God has come apart from the law even though the law pointed towards it.

And Romans 3 also said that “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

Romans 4 said that Abraham was justified before the Law and therefore apart from the Law and that law brings wrath.

Romans 5 said that law was added to the story of the world so that sin might increase which was probably shocker for the Christians who had been Jews to hear.

And Romans 6 said that sin will not be our ultimate master because we are now not under law but under grace.

And I think that Paul wants to get a couple things clear about the law because of these things that he’s said, especially those last two.

What is the relationship between us and the law and is the law good or bad?

Those are the big questions. And the answers can be a little surprising (and complicated).

So let’s see what he has to say.

The first thing he’s going to say is that we, as gospel-believing Christians have been released from the Law.  Look at verse 1 of Romans chapter 7.

“Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.”

Paul is obviously using an analogy.

If a woman is married she is bound to husband for life. “Till death do us part.”

So if she goes and marries someone else while he’s right there, she’s an adulteress.

But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is free to marry another.

So, what are we? V.4

“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”

That, my friends, is a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ!
We have died to the law.

Remember how we learned a few weeks ago that we had died to sin?

Well, it turns out that when we died to sin, we also died to the law. The Mosaic Law no longer holds the same authority over us that it did.  Including, especially, the condemnation that we deserved because we did not measure up to it!

“So, my brothers, you also died to the law [how?] through the body of Christ,” I think that means through His crucifixion. When He died, we died. And we died not just to sin but to the law.

And that was to free us to be bound so something else, someone else.

“[Y]ou also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another [to whom? To the dead guy?], to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”

We were released from the law to be wedded, united, joined to the Risen Christ so that we might fulfill all of God’s good plans for God’s people. So that we might bear fruit to God.

That’s not what had happened before. V.5

“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature [Greek “sarx” or “the flesh”], the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. [Not fruit for God but fruit for death. Yuck! That was us! V.6] But now, by dying to what once bound us [the law], we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”

#1. WE HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM THE LAW TO SERVE IN THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT.

How’s that for a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ?!

We Have Been Released from the Law to Serve in the New Way of the Spirit.

The old covenant is gone, and the new covenant has come.

Now, Paul is not going to mention the Spirit again until chapter 8. We’re going to have to wait until the next chapter to really dig into this idea of the newness of the Spirit.

But it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?

Because we are released from the law, we no longer serve God in the old way of the written code that really wasn’t working for us.  It was external to us and it was basically condemning us because of our sinfulness.

All those who tried to find salvation through obedience to the commandments were finding condemnation instead. Not only was the law not designed for that but no one could live up to it. Those who centered their lives on the commandments of the law were always coming up short.

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”

That’s a humongous change because of Jesus Christ.

And the application is simply to rejoice and to serve God in the new way of the Spirit!

We’ll talk more about what that looks like in the next chapter.

But first, we have to understand the concern that all of this teaching is raising for Paul.

It’s not a big deal to us because we don’t think about the law that much. We are always ready to sing, “Free from the law, O happy condition!

But it really raises some questions for Paul and for Paul’s Jewish readers.

Look at verse 7.

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not!”

Do you see his concern? Remember, chapters 6 and 7 are about answering questions that are raised once you’ve hear Paul’s gospel.

Chapter 6 was all about “Should we sin?”  Should we sin because it increases grace? Should we sin because we’re under law?

And the answer was, “No way!”

But here the question is, “Is the law sin?”

Is the law bad? Is the law the problem?

Paul, you sound like you’re saying that God made a mistake with Moses!

That God gave His people something bad, something sinful, the Law.

Is that what you’re saying, Paul?

We died to the law? Is that a good thing? Was the law sin?

Should we blame the law?  That’s the question.

And how does Paul answer it? The same way he answers all crazy questions, “May genoita! May it never be! God forbid. No way, no how. The law is not bad!”

The Mosaic law is not the problem.

The problem is me.

The problem is us.

Paul is saying, “Don’t get me wrong. The law is not to blame for the mess we’re in. We are to blame. Sin is to blame for the mess we’re in. Not the law.”

Now, it’s interesting how he does it. He does it by showing that there is a relationship between the law and sin. So, he’s not going back on anything he’s said about the law so far. He’s just clarifying. V.7 again.

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.”

Now, that’s a little confusing, but I’ll tell you what I think he means.

He says that the law was like a bridge that sin used to take him down.

The law wasn’t bad. It was good. It revealed what sin really is.

When God said, “Thou shalt not covet,” then it was really clear like never before that coveting was sinful.

But it was also never more tempting.

When Mom says, “I’m going out for an hour. Whatever you do, don’t eat that plate of brownies I just baked.”

Now, is there anything wrong with that command. No. It’s probably good, good for me, and good for others.

But I never wanted that brownie like I do now.

Is it Law’s fault? No. It’s my fault, but the law has given my sin an opportunity to express itself as a transgression.

Paul looks back at his experience. V.9

“Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”

Now, I don’t think that Paul would have said this about himself back when he was a Pharisee, but he sees it clearly now.

His sin lived out the sin of Adam all over again.

Life with no law. The commandment comes. Sin sprang to life. Then there was death.

It’s not the commandment’s fault! It was sin’s fault. Sin ran across the bridge of the commandment and took me down.  Took us all down.

So, what’s the bottom line? V.12

“So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”

That’s the answer to the question in verse 7. The law is not sin. It’s holy, righteous, and good. V.13

“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”

That’s the main message of Romans chapter 7, right there.

The Law is good. It is not bad. Don’t blame the law! It is not the problem.

Sin is the problem and sin used the law, but the law itself was not the problem.

The Law is good. But sin is bad and is utterly sinful.

And because of the law, we feel that.

And that’s a good gift, too! We should feel the sinfulness of sin.

So God used the law, as well, even while sin was using it. God had a better plan for it.

And now, He’s freed us from it.

Now that we feel it, we have been released from it to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

But we don’t always, do we?

“Prone to Wander, Lord, I Feel It
Prone to Leave the God I Love”

The rest of the chapter is a soul-searching meditation on the struggle with indwelling sin.

As I’ve said, the interpretation of this passage has been disputed by wonderful faithful Bible scholars for a long time.

Many many see it as Paul describing what it was like to live under the law before his conversion to Christ. And I think there is a lot of evidence that points that way.

But many others see it as Paul describing what it is like right now for himself as a Christ follower who still can fall into sin, still feel the powerful grip of sin trying to pull him back down. I think there is a little more evidence for that point of view.

And no matter which position you take, the point is still the same that the Law is not the solution–Jesus is.

The Mosaic law itself was not the problem. Verses 7 through 12 prove that.

But verses 13 through 25 also prove that the Mosaic Law was not the solution to the problem, either.  V.14

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”

We know that the law is spiritual. It’s good. It’s perfect. It’s pleasing to God. There is nothing wrong with it.

But for all of Paul’s exposure to the Law, he is unspiritual, literally, “fleshly.”

The law has not transformed him. The law has not brought about the life-change that God desires.

It’s not a life-changing relationship with God’s commandments.

That way never works!

Not as a way of salvation. Not as a way of being the righteous person that God requires.

Go down that road and there is only sin and death.

Paul says, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”

Now, I don’t think he means that he is positionally a slave to sin. He just said in the last chapter that we are dead to sin and it’s no longer our master.

But it feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?

When we fail?
When we give up?
When we give in?
When we’re going backwards.

V.15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.”

Ever feel that way?

GOOD!

Because that’s how a Christian is supposed to feel when they fall into sin.

NonChristians, they don’t care. They don’t hate it.

What they want to do, they do.

But Christians have a love/hate relationship with sin.

“...what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.”

Why is that? Because the conflict in me shows that God’s commandments are good even when I don’t choose to follow them. V.17

“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”

Now, don’t get Paul wrong here. He’s not saying that he’s not responsible for his sin. It’s his own sin that’s living in him. But he’s saying that there is something deeper and truer that is the real him, the truer him that isn’t his sin.

Sin is still resident but not president, right? V.18

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Have you ever felt this way?

Yeah, we all have.

Sin is still powerful even when we know that it has been defeated.

Sometimes, we lose a battle even though we know that Jesus has won the war.

In ourselves we are weak. There is nothing good in us and it is so easy to keep on doing what we did when we were under the law and under sin. We are often divided people, pulled both ways and feeling like we’re losing.

V.21  “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

Feel it! Do you feel the tension?

Do you ever feel like these verses?

GOOD!

That points to the fact that you are a Christian.

Because the nonChristian doesn’t want to do good, not at a deep level.

I don’t think a nonChristian delights in God’s law in their inner being.

And hates it when they see this competing law tugging at their hearts and making war in their hearts and actually taking you prisoner at times.

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle. And you just have to cry out with Paul verse 24.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

I take comfort from Paul saying that, because I think he really felt it.

Everything Paul knows about the gospel, and he still sometimes feels like a wretched man that is trapped in a living death.

But at the same time that’s no reason to give in to sin. There is no excusing sin here. There is no getting comfy and cozy with sin.

If you get comfy and cozy with sin, you might not be a Christian.

Paul wasn’t comfy and cozy with sin. He was hating it. He frustrated with himself. He was mad himself and bewildered by his own behavior.

But he wasn’t giving up the fight.  He was longing for fight to end.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

And he knows the answer. V.25

“Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

A life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s how he’ll be rescued!

#2. WE WILL BE RESCUED FROM THE WAR WITHIN.

Because we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be rescued from the war within.

Notice the future tense?

“Who will rescue me?” (V.24)
“Through Jesus Christ!” (V.25)

We aren’t there yet.

We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
We are being saved from the power of sin.
But we are not yet saved from the presence of sin.

That doesn’t come until the resurrection.

When our body of death is turned into a body of resurrection life.

So, the battle right now, still rages. V.25

“Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

Just because I know that the rescue is coming, doesn’t mean that I don’t have to struggle now.

We struggle now.

And we can win. We’ve learned that. We need to live out the truths of the gospel.

We are no longer slaves of sin.
We are no longer bound to the law.

And we need to live like it.

We’ll see more about how to do that in chapter, through the Spirit.

But for now the war still rages on and some of those battles will be lost along the way.

Salvation is Already But Not Yet.

It’s already here but not yet here in its fullness.

And we’re going to feel that.

That’s no excuse for sinning. Sin is awful here in Romans 7. There is nothing in sin to get cozy about.

But it’s also still around. It’s still living in me. Still to be dealt with daily.

And the answer to sin is not the law.

As good as the law is it is neither the problem or the solution. It doesn’t fix anything.

But Jesus does and Jesus will.

Let’s trust and follow Him.

***

Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You

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