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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Just Resisting Gossip -- Disciplemaking

It doesn't get seem to get old--I'm still loving to share what the Bible says about resisting gossip with new audiences every single time.

Last night, I had the opportunity to teach again on this topic to a group of college students at Pitt-Johnstown's Protestant Student Ministry. They were a high-energy group with excellent questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

It hit me again while reflecting on the evening on the way home with my daughter Robin that one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that whenever I get to teach, I'm doing more than just talking about how to recognize, resist, and respond to gossip--I'm teaching what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I loved that aspect of writing Resisting Gossip, as well. I was able to teach my understanding of sanctification overlayed on the persistent (and often unaddressed) problem of gossip. I got to teach about the nature of sin, the remedy of the gospel, how to resist temptation through trusting in the promises of God, how to confess and repent of sins, how to experience God's cleansing and new victories, how to access the Bible's wisdom, etc, etc, etc.

Last night, I talked with the young adults some about loving our enemies and living out our Lord's golden rule of thumb. That's a good bit more than just answering the question "What, exactly, is gossip?" Of course, it's not less than that, either. It's important to get our hands around the specific questions of gossip, but I think I enjoy it every single time because I get to talk about knowing, trusting, loving, and following Jesus--because that's what it's all about.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "The Spirit of Sonship"

“The Spirit of Sonship”
All Roads Lead to Romans
February 22, 2015 :: Romans 8:15-27 

We’ve reached the point in Romans 8 where just about every sentence could become a sermon. Just about every sentence from here to the end of the chapter is just loaded with glorious spiritual truth. I’m almost embarrassed to preach 13 verses to you when, just the first verse would be enough for us to chew on all morning.

But I’m also committed to not staying forever in this one book and also committed to trying to preach Paul’s argument, not just the individual statements of truth that the book contains.

So, we’ll take this section up together because of the theme of the Spirit that ties it all together.

In the last two messages on the Great Eight, we’ve seen how Paul has begun to emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation and our sanctification.

Verse 1 is the banner flying over all Christians, say it with me, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

And why? Because of the Spirit.

“because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

We saw last week that if the Spirit of God lives in you (and He does live in all true believers), then you get life and peace now and forever and you have both an obligation and the ability to kill sin. V.6

“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace...” and verse 13: “[I]f you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

That’s where we left off last week.  The Spirit gives us the power to kill sins, to execute, to put to death the misdeeds of the body.

And why? Because those who are in the sway of the Spirit are the sons of God.

And in our passage for today, Paul takes off on that theme, being the sons, the children of God.

And that comes, again, not from ourselves, but from the Spirit.

Do you see what I mean about each sentence could be a sermon?

Take this first sentence for example.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

It starts with “for,” and that’s because he’s explaining further why Christians can kill sin. They can kill sin because they are God’s children.

How did that happen?

How did you become a child of God?

Well, there are lots of ways of answering that question with truth, but what Paul emphasizes here is that we were adopted by God when we received the Spirit.

He starts by saying that there is a kind of spirit we did not receive.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear,”

I could imagine a world in which God made me His slave by putting a spirit of slavery into me.

In fact, that’s some people’s idea of what Christianity is. We obey out of fear like a cringing slave who is worried that his master will be unhappy with him.

But that’s not the Spirit we received. V.15

“[B]ut you received the Spirit of sonship.”

That’s going to be the title of today’s message, “The Spirit of Sonship.”

If you have the King James, it says, the “Spirit of Adoption.” If you have the ESV or the NASB or the 2011 NIV, it says something like “the Spirit of Adoption as Sons”  “Or to Sonship.”

The idea is that the Holy Spirit is involved in God’s adopting us as His son. The underlying Greek word here refers “to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture” (NIV 2011 footnote for verse 15).

This is not just any Spirit. This is the Spirit of Sonship.

And you got Him when you became a Christian.

You received the Spirit of Sonship.

And that makes you God’s own child.

Now, we could just stop there and marvel at that and tease out the implications of that for the next half hour.

You received the Spirit of Sonship.

What does that mean for you and me?

We’re going to see at least three amazing things.

#1. THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP ASSURES YOU THAT YOU BELONG.

To God the Father. V.15 again.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear [like you might if you were still trying to be justified through following the Law], but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Now, that’s amazing.

Because that’s calling God, “Dad.”

“Abba” is an Aramaic term of endearment for your father.

It was what Jesus called God!

And Paul says that because we have the Spirit of Sonship, we can cry out “Abba, Father.”

So much more than just a slave!

There is a biblical category for calling ourselves slaves of God.

But that’s not the only the category, and it’s not the deepest category for our identity.

Because we have the Spirit of Sonship, we are the sons of God!

And He tells us so. V.16

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”

The Holy Spirit whispers this into our hearts.

“You belong to God.”
“Jesus has saved you.”
“You are a son of God.”
“You are a daughter of the King.”
“There is no condemnation for you...”

The Spirit of Sonship assures us that we belong.

Now, not every Christian can hear that voice at every second of every day. But all true Christians have heard it and will hear it when they need to most.

Because it’s the ministry of the Spirit to testify to and with our human spirit’s that we are the children of God.

He uses the gospel. He reminds us of what Jesus did for us.

And He shows us how we’ve changed since we began to trust Jesus. How we hate what the Father hates and love what the Father loves.

And it’s mysterious how He does it. It’s not audible voice for most of us.

But He’s there whispering it to our hearts. “You are God’s child.”

“You’re not a slave, you’re a Son.”
“You have all the rights and privileges of an adopted Son.”

Do you remember when the prodigal son came home in Jesus’ parable?

He told himself that he would go home and be a slave for his father. He had wished his father’s death and squandered his inheritance.

But what welcome did the prodigal get?  His father ran to meet him–that never happened in that culture–and he embraced him and said, “My Son! My Son!” “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

I hear him whispering it in his ear. “My son, my son.”

That’s what the Spirit of Sonship assures all genuine believers.

The application of this truth is to rest and rejoice.

Be comforted by the Spirit’s ministry. Rest in that. Don’t tell yourself that you have to earn God’s favor. Jesus has already done that for you.

Rest in the Father’s love.
Rejoice in the Father’s love.

You don’t have to live in fear. You can live in peace because the Spirit of Sonship assures you that you belong.

You belong!

Now, that also means that you can kill sin. Because you have this Spirit at work in you, you can put to death the misdeeds of the body.

But not to curry favor with the slavemaster. No!

Instead to live out your family name!

Because God is your Father, you can say “NO” to the things your father hates.

Rest and rejoice.

#2. THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP ASSURES YOU THAT YOU WILL INHERIT.

All of God’s promises.

In verse 17, Paul takes this idea of sonship one step further.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Do you see how good this is?

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs...” Makes sense, right? If you are someone’s child, especially in this culture, if you  are their firstborn son, then you inherit from them all of what they’ve promised you.

He says, we’re “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” that’s because He’s actually the firstborn son, and we are IN CHRIST, we are IN HIM.

The Spirit of Sonship has included us into Christ so that we inherit what He inherits.

Which is GLORY.

We’re going to see more about glory in future sermons, but it’s just amazing to think that we are going to inherit it.

This verse says that we are going to share in Christ’s glory.

He deserves it. We don’t. But we get it anyway with Him.

Because of the Spirit of Sonship.

Now, there is another thing that we inherit here. And that’s the sufferings of Christ.

That’s not as fun to think about, but all Christians will suffer in this life. Some a little, some a lot.

Some Christians will die for Christ. Others will merely be inconvenienced for Christ.

But we must all suffer something for and with Christ. How could we think that our master would suffer and we would be immune?

Suffering is the path to glory.

Not everybody sees that. There are prosperity preachers out there with great big smiles that say that God wants us all to be healthy, wealthy, and successful.

But this says that God has suffering for all of us “in order that we may also share in his glory.”

But it also says that’s more than worth it. V.18

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Yes, it hurts right now. But on the scales of eternity, there’s no comparison.

It’s like which is better a grain of sand or a twenty tons of gold?

Our suffering right now which could be very great is not even a grain of sand compared to the twenty tons of gold that will come in the future for the children of God.

Because we have the Spirit of Sonship, we are going to inherit the incomparable glory of Christ.

But it’s not here yet. In fact, the whole creation is waiting for that day when it is revealed. V.19

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”

That’s more than just us Christians.

That’s the whole of creation. That’s the butterflies and trees and oceans and lions and elephants and whales and microscopic organisms and mountains and every created thing.

The whole created world is standing on tiptoe and straining its neck to see what God is going to when He unveils the sons of God.

You see, we are not who will be. You and I don’t look that impressive to the creation right now.

Yes, we’re made in God’s image, but that image is marred and scarred and broken.

But there is coming day when we are going to be unveiled and the creation will wonder at what God has done in us. How do we know? The Spirit of Sonship assures us that it’s coming. V.20

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The whole world is broken.

Remember our theme last Summer of “Restored?” The world is not like it’s supposed to be.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, killer ice storms.

Death, decay, rot, disintegration.  Things fall apart, the center doesn’t hold.

The creation was frustrated. And now it groans. V.22

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

The whole world is in labor. And it hurts.

Ladies, does labor hurt?

What kind of a stupid question is that?

Paul personifies creation and says that the whole of creation is in labor.

Labor is worth it because of what is going to come. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It hurts plenty.

Our entire creation hurts and groans like labor pains because we have not yet seen the return of Christ and the revelation of the sons of God.

But it’s coming! V.23

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit [even us, even we], groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

We groan, too.

Even we who have the Spirit also groan.

Even we who have the Spirit of Sonship. Because we have the Spirit of Sonship, we groan. Because we are not yet what we will be.

Christian, it’s okay to feel bad that you have not arrived.

It’s okay to long for that day when you are perfected and no longer sin at all.

It’s okay to long for that day when you don’t hurt any more.

It’s right to long for that day when you receive your adoption.

... Wait.

Aren’t we already adopted?

Verses 15 and 16 said that we are.

The Spirit says to our spirit that we are the children of God.

But there is a sense in which we have not yet been fully adopted.

We don’t yet have our new bodies. V.23

We “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

I can’t hardly wait.

So much of life in the here and now is groaning.

And that’s right. The whole world groans, why wouldn’t we?

But we don’t groan in despair. We groan in hope. We groan like labor pains expecting that joy to come. We groan in hope. V.24

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

He’s saying, “This is what it’s all about. It’s not here yet. It’s not hope if you have it in your hand. But we have the promise, and it’s secure. And so we wait.”

The Spirit of Sonship assures us that we will inherit the glory of Christ in new glorified bodies.

Application?  Wait and Hope.

Did you see how we are to wait in verses 23 and 25?

V.23 “ We wait eagerly.”

That’s exactly right. We don’t get used to this world and give up hoping. We strain forward in faith. We wait eagerly.

And v.25, “We wait for it patiently.”

Because we’re not there yet.

It’s easy to get tired waiting for our inheritance. It’s easy to get distracted waiting for our inheritance.

The world says, “Hey! Look over here. This is what’s important, and it will make you happy. You can forget about all that groaning. Pay attention to this.”

But the Spirit of Sonship says, “Wait eagerly. Wait patiently. Because you are God’s child, all of this will one day soon be yours. Wait for it! Long for it. Groan for it. But know that it’s on the way.”

Do you need to hear that?  I needed to hear that this week.

We look around in the newspaper and we see a world that is coming off of its hinges.

But that’s exactly what the Bible said would happen. It’s been happening ever since the creation. V.20 “The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” Who was that? Adam? Satan?

No, God. “In Hope” it says! “The will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

That’s what’s going to happen.

We just have to hold on for it. And stay busy doing our Father’s work.

That glorious freedom is coming soon.

Wait and hope.

And number 3.

#3. THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP ASSURES YOU THAT YOU HAVE HELP.

With your prayers.

V.26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

The Spirit of Sonship assures us that we have help.

And we need help.

We are weak. We groan. Our lives often hurt. Things are not the way they are supposed to be.

And in our weakness, we don’t always know what to pray.

Do you ever feel that way?  Things are rough, and you don’t even know what to say to God.

Well, here is good news. The Spirit of God is also praying.

He intercedes, verse 26, “The Spirit Himself intercedes.” V.27, “The Spirit intercedes for the saints (that’s us) in accordance with God’s will.” Literally, “according to God.”

If you could have a prayer partner that would perfectly pray for you when you didn’t know what to pray, wouldn’t that be great?

It turns out that you have one–the Spirit of Sonship. The Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us with “groans that words cannot express.”

Now, it’s possible that this is the Holy Spirit at work in our own groaning prayers. The groans of verse 23 turned into prayers that the Holy Spirit is interpreting for us.

I think that’s a very good possibility.

But it feels when you read it that it’s the Spirit that’s doing the groaning.

The creation groans.
Christians groan.
And even the Spirit groans. He feels what we are going through alongside of us and perfectly interprets our prayers to the Father.

The One who searches our hearts. He knows perfectly what the Spirit thinks and the Spirit prays for us in accordance with God’s will.

Isn’t that good news?

Who know better what to pray for than God Himself?!

And God Himself is praying to God Himself for us!

That’s mind-boggling and mysterious.

But it’s so good, because we desperately need that help.

Because until our full adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, we are going to be so weak.  We need help.

We groan and we need help groaning in the right direction.

Isn’t it great news that the Spirit is going to groan with us and interpret our prayers so that they are by the time they reach the Father, exactly what God wants?

The application is to trust and pray.

Go ahead. Pray! You can’t do it wrong if you do it in faith.

Your prayers are going to be weak. So what? Pray anyway, because the Spirit of Sonship assures you that you will have the help you need.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for [but pray anyway!], but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

If the Spirit is going to help you in that way when you pray, why wouldn’t you pray?

Trust that He is working and pray. And pray some more.

Do you see what a difference it makes to have the Spirit of Sonship?

He assures you that you belong to the Father.
He assures you that you will inherit all of God’s promises.
He assures you that you will have the help in praying that you need.

Rest and rejoice.
Wait and hope.
Trust and pray.


***

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
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

An Encouraging Story about "Resisting Gossip"

I just go this super-encouraging note from a reader about how God is using Resisting Gossip in one family:

***

Matt,

My friend has always had a hard relationship with her in laws. They often gossip about her (because she isn't the "same" as them). It has been very hurtful for her and they think nothing is wrong because what they are saying is "true."

My friend finally had a talk with her mother-in-law about how hurtful the gossip is and gave her a copy of Resisting Gossip. The mother-in-law really connected with the book and now wants to order a whole bunch for everyone in their family! She is making reconciliatory advances towards my friend now.

I'm so thankful for your book and the healing it can bring. Thank you!

***

I can't say how much that made my day and week. What a joy to be useful in the Lord's hands!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "If the Spirit Lives in You"

“If the Spirit Lives in You”
All Roads Lead to Romans
February 15, 2015 :: Romans 8:5-14 

Last week, we only made it four verses into the “Great Eight,” but we marinaded and celebrated in the truth of those verses that say that there is now, what?  “No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation.

No condemnation because of the work of the Son of God. V.3

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering [for us!]. And so he condemned sin in...” the flesh of God’s own Son.

No condemnation because of the Son of God.

And no condemnation because of the work of the Spirit of God. V.2

“...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

We said last week that a lot of chapter 8 is dedicated to the work of the Holy Spirit, and we’re really going to start seeing that this Sunday.

In fact, I’ve entitled this message, “If the Spirit Lives in You.”

That’s a phrase that appears a number of different times in these ten verses.

And I’m going to boil it down to just two points this morning. Two things that Paul is saying are true of all believers because the Spirit of God lives within them.

The Holy Spirit had only been mentioned 4 times in the book of Romans up till now.

In chapter 1, He is called the Spirit of holiness and was involved in declaring Jesus to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. We’ll see that theme again in verse 11.

In chapter 2, the Spirit is recognized as the one who circumcises hearts. That we are true Jews inwardly not because of the written code but because of the Spirit. That’s the same kind of theology we’re seeing here.

In chapter 5, Paul said that God has poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom he has given us as a gift of justification. We’re going to hear something much like that in verse 16 next week.

In chapter 7, Paul said that the Spirit has brought the new way of living now that we’re justified. He said in chapter 7, verse 6: “[W]e 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.”  He was introducing what we’re going to learn about today.

And last week, Paul said in verse 4 that the condemnation of sin in Jesus’ crucified flesh had a purpose. It was (v.4) “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature (the flesh) but according to the Spirit.”

And then today’s passage takes it from there. Paul starts to string out a set of comparison between life according to the flesh (the sinful nature, Greek word “sarx”) and life according to the Spirit. V.5

“Those who live according to the sinful nature [the flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

There are only two ways to live. One is the old way, the selfish way. The self-justifying way, the way of the sinful nature, the flesh. And the other is the new way of the Spirit.

“Those who live according to [the flesh] have their minds set on what that [the flesh] desires...”

That phrase “minds set” is a really good one because the word being translated means more than just our thoughts, it really means our mindset, our attitude, our wills, our preferences and inclinations, and our heart.

Those who live the fleshly way have their hearts set on what the flesh desires.

Now, that’s more than just illicit sex. We sometimes use the phrase, “desires of the flesh” to just mean the filth in “50 Shades of Grey.” But it’s more than that.

What the flesh desires is what sinners desire. Sometimes that’s illicit pleasure. Sometimes it’s popularity or comfort or possessing the wrong thing or being justified in the eyes of others, being thought well of. Anything that the sinful heart can twistedly want is what Paul is talking about.

Wanting the wrong things.

That’s what the flesh does. But (v.5) “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires.”

Now, Paul is not telling us how to live here. This is not a list of things to do here. He’s actually telling us how we actually do live if we are Christians, if the Spirit lives in you.

This is not a description of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit inside of the Christian. It’s not like Romans 7 or Galatians 5.

It’s a description of the contrast between nonChristians and Christians.

Those who are not yet Christians who live according to the flesh and those who are Christians who live according to the Spirit.

And here’s the bad news for those whose mindsets are in the flesh. V.6

“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Here’s point number one this morning.

#1. IF THE SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU, YOU GET LIFE AND PEACE NOW AND FOREVER.

“The mind of [the flesh] is death, but the mind [of] the Spirit is life and peace.”

Well, when you put that way, it’s no contest, right?

Who wants death?

Who wants life and peace?

But until the Spirit, we were all choosing the way that leads to death.

Why? V.7

“the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.”

The fleshly mindset is an enemy of God, and in time, God will put all of His enemies to death.

The flesh does not submit to God or His commands. In fact, it cannot do so.

Before we received the Spirit, we were unable to do God’s will. Physically yes, but spiritually and morally, no. Not in such a way as to please God. V.8

“Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

Those who are in the flesh, those who are not yet Christ-followers cannot please God and are headed for death.

BUT! V.9

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Do you see why I say he’s contrasting Christians and nonChristians?

Christians, by definition, have the Spirit of God. And the Spirit of God is active in Christians to control and lead them and direct their lives.

The word “control” isn’t really there in the Greek either. It’s just the NIV trying to put the idea into English words.

It literally just says, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since it’s true that the Spirit of God is in you.”

If the Spirit is in you, then you are in the Spirit.

And that’s very different from being in the flesh.

The Spirit of God has a sway over you. And it means life and peace both now and forever.

You can please God!

That’s the implication.  “Those in the flesh cannot please God...” but you aren’t in the flesh, you’re in the Spirit because the Spirit is in you. So you can...please God.

That’s the idea of verse 4 again the “righteous requirements of the law” can be fully met in us because of the Spirit. He can produce His fruit in us so that we are pleasing to our Lord.

Not perfectly yet but truly.

And that means life and peace for all believers.

All believers. Because all believers have the Spirit. V.9 again.

“And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

So if you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of Christ.

Notice how He’s called the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ in the same verse. Same person.

The name “Spirit of Christ” emphasizes that He’s ours because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’ condemnation, we have no condemnation and the Spirit of Christ. V.10

“But if Christ is in you [and He is if you belong to Him!], your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

Now, that’s a hard verse to translate. Some of your versions might say, “The body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

I’m not sure what that would mean.

I think the NIV has it best and the idea is that our bodies now are decaying and mortal and subject to death but because of the Holy Spirit, we now have new regenerated spirit within us, a new heart because of the gift of Jesus’ righteousness.

In other words, we have life and peace.

Peace with God and new spiritual life.

And then we get life forever. V.11

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

Do see how Paul emphasizes the idea of life here?

His logic begins and ends in the same place, too.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you [and He is, He’s the Spirit of resurrection], he who raised Christ from the dead [there is resurrection again] will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

In other words, life and peace both now and forever.

We will get new bodies that will be like Jesus’ new bodies.

Some people have the idea that you die and go to heaven and that’s it.

But that’s not it.

That’s just temporary.

Some day, we get new resurrection bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body.

And we will experience life like we’ve never known it.

Life and peace forever and ever.

If the Spirit lives in you.

Notice that condition. If you don’t have the Spirit, you are still in the flesh. And you don’t please God. You don’t love God. You don’t submit to God’s law. You do what you want. You are locked into that. And you are headed for death.

So the application of that first point is to come to Christ to get the Spirit.

You must belong to Jesus to have the Spirit of God.

Do you belong to Jesus? V.9

“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Do belong to Christ? If you do, you have the Spirit, and it’s wonderful. It makes all of the difference. Having the Spirit makes all the difference!

That’s what I wrote down, almost titled this message that. “Having the Spirit makes all the difference.”

And you get the Spirit when you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for you on the Cross.

When you do, you are giving new life and peace with God that starts now and because of a new body, goes on forever.

I invite you to trust in Jesus Christ today and receive not just the forgiveness of sins but the Spirit of Christ Himself.

If the Spirit lives in you, you get life and peace now and forever.

#2. IF THE SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU, YOU HAVE THE OBLIGATION AND ABILITY TO KILL SIN.

That’s where Paul goes next. V.12

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Paul starts his sentence in verse 12 but then breaks it off and takes it in a new direction.

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature [the flesh], to live according to it.”

What do you think the obligation then is?

I think it’s to the Spirit.

We have an obligation to live according to the Spirit who lives in us and seals our union with Christ.

Obligation.

We are to do it. We are called to live a particular way.

We’ve seen in the last month that some people think that being a Christian means that you’re free to sin. You’re forgiven so why not just do whatever feels good?

“May genoita!” May it never be.

We are free now to walk in the Spirit.

We have an obligation, and living out that obligation is not earning our salvation. It’s working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Living out our obligation doesn’t contribute one bit to our justification. That’s by faith alone in Christ alone!

But because of our justification, we are now obligated to the Spirit to live to please God.  V.12 again.

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the [flesh], you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

That’s our obligation.

Our obligation is to kill sin.

The old English word was “mortify” sin. Now, that tends to mean be ashamed or afraid of something. “Oh, I’m mortified!”

But it used to mean put something to death.

Execution.

We are (by the Spirit!) supposed to execute the sins, the misdeeds, we are tempted to do with our bodies.

And we can!

That’s what’s so amazing about having the Spirit.

Because of the Spirit, we can say NO to sin.

We can live holy lives.

We can please God.

Not perfectly but truly.

Because the Spirit of God is at work in and through us. V.14

“...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Now, that isn’t referring primarily to the Spirit’s guidance in our everyday life or in decision-making.

It’s that the Spirit directs our lives, the Spirit holds sway over our lives, the Spirit leads us through life to eternal life.

We’re going to see next week more of how this is tied to our being sons of God, children of God with all of the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.

But the point I want to make here is that because we are (by the Spirit!) the children of God, we can mortify sin.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Because the Spirit lives within us, we have both the obligation and the ability to kill sin.

So, we should get busy doing it.

What are the misdeeds of the body that you need to put to death?

What sins need to go to the guillotine in your life?

Notice, he says, the misdeeds of the body.

How might you use your body to sin, where the flesh gets the upper-hand with your flesh?

Your eyes. What do you look at? What do gaze upon?

Your tongue. What do you say? What comes out of your mouth?

Your ears. What do you to listen to?

Your sexual organs. What do you do with your sexuality? How do you express it?

Your feet. Where do they take you?

Your hands. What do hold or push or pull?

Your brain. What will you think about?

“[B]y the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body and you will live.”

The great puritan John Owen was fond of saying about this verse, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

But the greater thing to get is that you can kill sin now because you are in the Spirit and the Spirit of God is in you.

***

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
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "No Condemnation"

“No Condemnation”
All Roads Lead to Romans
February 8, 2015 :: Romans 8:1-4 

We’re just about half way through the book of Romans. There are 16 chapters in Romans, so when we finish this chapter, we’ll have done exactly half of the chapters.

But most people consider Romans 8 to be the pinnacle of Romans. The high point. Some (including myself) like to call it “The Great Eight.” Because of the amazing truth that this chapter contains in such memorable phrases and sentences and arguments.

Remember when we started this series, and I said that all roads lead to Romans and then started quoting verses and let you finish them?  A whole bunch of those very familiar, very precious verses were from Romans chapter 8. It’s just that awesome.

I think we’ll be camping here for at least a month. I see at least 4 sermons on Romans 8, and it could turn into more. I promise not to stay here for a year or years, but that would actually be easy to do.

Today, I just want us to get through the first 4 verses.

And really, the biggest thing I want to get across is that verse that we’re memorizing now, the first verse, Romans chapter 8, verse 1.

Say it with me.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation.

No condemnation. If you get any thing out of today’s message, if you take anything home with you this afternoon, I want it to be that.

No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Now, verse 1 is just about as surprising as it is precious.

If you remember, last time we were in Romans together, we were reading at the end of chapter 7 about the war within Christians, an ongoing battle with indwelling sin. A battle that sometimes we lose though we know that eventually Jesus will finally rescue us from this body of death.

But Christians find that even though we are free from sin and free from the law, that there is this “other law” at work in us. Chapter 7 called it the law of sin. And we find that when we try to go it alone in the Christian life that the law of sin can actually take us captive again. Even though our truest self belongs to God and loves God and His law.

The last chapter ended with verse 25, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature (the flesh) a slave to the law of sin.”

That’s a pretty depressing place to live, in the middle of that war within.

The battle rages.

And then Paul says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

And those of us who have been reading carefully say, “Wait, what?”

How does that “therefore” work? How does our lack of condemnation flow out of what was just said in verse 25?

And the answer is that the “therefore” stretches further back.

Not that Paul is changing the subject. He’s just making it clear what the big subject has always been and that’s justification by faith.

Paul is picking up from Romans 7:6 and really from Romans 1:1-7:6.

Paul is summing up his argument so far.

Now, I’m not going to walk you again through chapter 1 through chapter 7. I’m tempted to. It would be a good exercise.

But I’ll just say this, Paul has been arguing for the gospel of which He is not ashamed.

And it’s a gospel of grace through faith in Jesus and faith apart from the works of the law.

Does that sound familiar? That’s a radical idea. Especially for a former Pharisee!

Paul has said that “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (3:28).

And that was actually the way that Abraham was justified.  And that believing in this gospel leads to all kinds of blessings forever and ever: peace with God, saved from God’s wrath, joy forevermore.  That’s Romans 1-5.

And then for the last two chapters, Paul has been answering questions and objections to this radical doctrine of justification by faith.  Does believing this doctrine lead to more sin? And does it mean that the Mosaic law was the problem? That the law was bad.

What was the answer to all those questions. Of course not.  “May genoita!”

And now Paul is summing all of that up. Seven chapters of careful argument. And he says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Yes, there is a great battle that still rages within the hearts of true Christ-followers.

But a great victory has already been won that makes the outcome of that war predictable and, in fact, inescapable.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

I love that word “now.”

I think it means at least two things. One is that there was a time when we were condemned or headed for condemnation.

But NOW that has changed.

For those who are in Christ Jesus, everything has changed.

But I think it also means that we have that no condemnation NOW. We don’t have to wait for the end of our lives to hear the verdict, “No Condemnation.”

It’s not just something that God will say to us someday in the heavenly courtroom, but something that God pronounces over us right ... NOW.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Before we get to applying that truth to our lives, we need to see a little bit about HOW that’s possible. Why is there now this verdict over our lives – “No Condemnation!” ?  How is that possible?

Well, verses 2-4 are pretty complicated. I spent most of the day yesterday just trying to untangle them to follow Paul’s argument.

I’m going to simplify it to say this.

There is no condemnation because of the Son of God and because of the Spirit of God.

Because of the Son of God.
Because of the Spirit of God.

Now, most of chapter 8, or at least verses 5 through about 27 are about the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is the main actor in this chapter. Most of the chapter is about the Spirit’s ministries of bringing life, adopting us into God’s family, and helping us with our weaknesses.

So, we’re going to learn a lot about the Spirit in the next few weeks. He’s going to give us assurance of our great hope.

But that no condemnation is not just about the Spirit but about the Son of God.

BECAUSE OF THE SON OF GOD.

What did He do so that we have no condemnation? V.2

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

There’s the Spirit. His power and authority here is called the law of the Spirit and it produces life and sets us free. We’ll see more about that in a second.

But notice that it’s “through Christ Jesus” that the Spirit does even that.  And Paul explains it in verse 3.

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man...”

Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?

Because Christ Jesus took our condemnation for us.

Let’s pick verse 3 apart a little.

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature [or by the flesh]...”

Now, that sounds a lot like what we’ve been learning in the previous chapter, right?

Was the Mosaic law was a good or bad thing?

A good thing.

But could it and did it save God’s people?

No. It couldn’t and didn’t save God’s people. It didn’t justify them, and it didn’t transform them. That’s a lot of what Paul was arguing in chapter 7.

The law was weakened. Not because it was bad, but because WE ARE.

The law which required righteousness didn’t create righteousness in us because we’re sinners. The law actually increased sin!

It didn’t save. The law actually increased sin and showed the sinfulness of sin.

But it was doing its job.

The law was powerless to save and change us. But God was not. V.3 again.

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”

That’s John 3:16 isn’t it?

What did God do? He sent his own Son.

He didn’t send someone else’s Son.

How much easier that would have been!

And He sent Him in the likeness of sinful man or the likeness of sinful flesh.

What does that mean? That he wasn’t really a man? He wasn’t really flesh.

No. He was fully human. But without sin.

“...sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”

That’s the Cross.

That’s what we will celebrate at the Lord’s Table here in a just few minutes.

Jesus died as a sacrifice for sins. ... V.3 again.

“And so he condemned sin in sinful man...”

I think that’s a bad translation. It should read something more like (King James or ESV), “And he [God] condemned sin in the flesh.” Meaning, in the flesh of the incarnate Son of God.

The 2011 NIV gets to this right. “And so he condemned sin in the flesh.”

God condemned sin in the flesh of His incarnate Son.

When Jesus was on the Cross dying a bloody terrible awful death, God was condemning sin in His flesh.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?

Because Jesus was condemned already for them.

But Paul says more. He says there was a purpose to that death that goes even beyond no condemnation. And that is that the Law would actually be fulfilled. That we would actually become holy both now in part and someday in full. Verse 4.

“ And so he condemned sin in [the flesh], in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

BECAUSE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

What did and does the Spirit do so that we have no condemnation?

He changed and changes us.

Jump back up to verse 2 and see the Spirit there.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The law of the Spirit of life means, I think, the power and authority and rule of the Holy Spirit who gives spiritual life to God’s people.

And that “law of the Spirit life” has set me free from “the law of sin and death.”

Which, I think, is the same law as chapter 7, verse 25, “the law of sin” that still attacks the Christian and sneaks up and tries to take us over.

But Christians have something that nonChristians do not.

They have someOne that nonChristians do not.

Christians have the Spirit of God.

And His presence makes all of the difference. He has set us free.

Now, that’s not fully here yet. We’ve seen that. But He’s set us free decisively and finally, and is doing to progressively. (These 3 adverbs are taken from John Piper’s “Look at the Book” on Romans 8).

And here’s the point:

We no longer have to sin.

Because we have the Spirit.

We have the powerful personal presence of God working inside of us.

So, we are set free and there is no condemnation over us.

And more than that, He is changing us progressively as we walk with Him.

So much, in fact, that we fulfill the law.

You can’t fulfill the law by following the law.

But you can by following the Spirit. V.4 again.

“And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Now, we’ll see more about that next week. Paul is going to tease out the difference between walking/living according to the flesh and walking/living according to the Spirit.

This is what Paul was talking about back in Romans 7:6 when he said that “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.”

Can you see how we who have the Spirit have the powerful personal presence of God at work in our lives, and that changes everything!

Because He’s changing us we are and will be no longer the same.

The theological word for that is “sanctification.”

Our justification leads to our sanctification.

Because sin was condemned in Jesus, the Holy Spirit now is changing us so that we live out the fulfillment of the law. And what is that?  That’s love.

We love others now because the Spirit is at work in us.

And there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Now that we see that it comes because of the Son and the Spirit, let’s do some application of this glorious truth.

Let’s get personal.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

#1. Believe It.

Let that sentence sink into you.

Let that sentence define you.

Let that sentence be what you know to be true about you.

Put your name in it.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for [Matt Mitchell].”

I have told several people that this should become their life verse.

I don’t really believe in life verses, as if you only needed one.

But this is one that many people need to take into their heart system and make their own.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Even though:

It feels like it.

Even though the world condemns you.

Even though Satan condemns you.

Even though your flesh condemns you.

Where it really counts, there is no condemnation.

Even though the world tells you that you are worthless or crazy or stupid or hopeless or guilty or shameful or damaged goods.

And when I say, “the world,” I mean those people around you who make you feel like this.

And that person that sinned against you. That stole from you. That hurt you. That blames you.

Even though they make you feel condemned, you are not.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Believe it.

Believe it even though Satan and his minions tell you that you are hopeless.  That you will never conquer your sins. That you will never grow in holiness.

When Satan tempts you to despair and tells you of the guilt within...
Upward you look and see Him there who made and end to all your sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, your sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon thee!

You can tell Satan that he’s right. That you are a sinner. That you deserve condemnation.

But then you tell him, that it’s all been taken care of.

Because what the law was powerless to do, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.

God condemned your sin already when He put His Son to death.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Even though it feels like it when your own flesh tells you differently.

When you’re depressed.
When you feel defeated.
When you feel shame.
When you’ve just given in to sin once more.

Believe it then.

Preach it to your heart.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Make it stronger.

Because there is no condemnation, it actually means the opposite.

There is commendation.
There is delight.
There is love.
There is pleasure, the pleasure of God for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Think about it!

How does God the Father feel about God the Son?

He loves Him, doesn’t He?
He delights in Him.
He takes great pleasure in His Son.

Now, where does this verse say YOU are?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus...”

If you are in Christ Jesus, how do you think God thinks about you?

Believe it.

And #2. LIVE FROM IT.

And by this, I mean live out of it.

Make this the unshakable foundation on which you live.

Because there is no condemnation, you can live a holy life.

In fact, you will. If you are in Christ Jesus, you will live out a holy life. Not a perfect one but a holy one. Because the Spirit is at work in you.

We’re going to see that a bunch next week.

But the basic idea is that because there is no condemnation, we can live according to the Spirit, and so we should.

This is every reason to go killing sin in us.

Some people think that if there is no condemnation then we can just go on sinning because it’s all over.

But it’s because of no condemnation, that we can go putting sin to death in our own lives.

And we can live confidently, boldly, courageously.

I mean, if you already know what God thinks of you, what the verdict is going to be for your life, then you’re free to live the way you know you should right now.

If it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks of you, the world, the devil, and even yourself–then how free are you to live?!

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

Live like it.

Unless, of course, you are not IN Christ Jesus.

If you have not put your faith in the Lord Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross...

If you have not put yourself in His hands....

If you have not turned from your sins and trusted in Christ then you are not justified. You are not being sanctified. You won’t be walking with the Spirit.

You are condemned and you are heading for condemnation.

This promise is only good for those who are IN Christ Jesus.

If you are in Christ Jesus, you have everything to look forward to forever.

But if you are not in Christ Jesus, you have nothing to look forward to but condemnation.

If that’s you, then I urge you to come to Christ, to cling to Christ, to repent and put your faith in Christ.

Because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!"

***

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
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Monday, February 02, 2015

"Resisting Gossip" at the EFCA Theology Conference

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the EFCA Theology Conference on the Doctrine of the Scriptures. It was an excellent conference with high-level lectures from some of the leading scholars in evangelicalism (audio coming soon). In future days I hope to share some of what I learned during the event.

My favorite part, however, was reconnecting with many old friends, many of whom I didn't know would be there.

Among the many pleasant surprises of the conference was walking past the Next Step Resources book table and spotting a familiar yellowish cover behind books by D.A. Carson, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Graham Cole. (Which one of these is not like the other?)