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Sunday, January 10, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "Returning to Romans"

“Returning to Romans”
All Roads Lead to Romans
January 10, 2016 :: Romans 1-13 

Our sermon today is entitled, “Returning to Romans.”

We said in the Fall of 2014 that in the Bible all roads lead to Romans, and now our road as a church has returned to Romans once again.

Anybody want to guess what the date was when we left off our study of Romans?

The last sermon I preached on Romans was June 28, 2015.  So it has been more than half a year since we were Romans together.

A lot has happened since then, hasn’t it?

Not the least of which for me was that “vacation” I took this Summer when I checked myself into that posh resort in Dubois where they help you lose weight the easy way. They just cut it right out of you!

I said when we started this series that I didn’t want to be one of those preachers who go into Romans and then never come out again. Some preachers stay in Romans for 8 or 10 years preaching on it every week verse by verse by verse.

Well, we came out of Romans all right, and we stayed out Romans for half a year. But now we’re returning to it again.

And we probably need to do some kind of a review.

I’ve struggled to figure out how to return to Romans. I mean it’s been half a year, I’m sure that we don’t remember all that we’ve learned.

In fact, I had a funny experience this week.

I read through all 31 sermons that I had preached on Romans in 2014 and 2015.

And the funny thing was that I kept learning things!

I kept saying, “Oh yeah, that’s a good point.”  From my own sermons!

When Heather and I met we attended First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago and the pastor there was always stopping in the middle of the his sermons and saying, “That was a good point! I’m taking notes on myself!”

I think he was mostly joking, but that’s pretty much how I felt this week when I re-read those 31 sermons. There are so many glorious things to learn in the book of Romans, and we’ve probably forgotten more already than we learned together in those 31 sermons.

We’ve completed the first 13 chapters. 13 of 16. We’re almost there! But it’s been half a year.

So how do you review?

I thought about just trying to read those 13 chapters to you. But I know that it would take more time than we have this morning. And we want to get the Lord’s Table this week! We didn’t get there last week, but we’re going to get there this week! I promise.

So, we’ll have to summarize. But how do you do that?

When I was a writing this sermon, I would come home and tell the family how many points I had summarized these chapters into.

The first time I came home, I said, “I’ve got it down to 31 points.”

And Heather said, “I think you better go back to work.”

And then the next time I came home, I said, “I’ve got it down to 13 points. One for each chapter!”

And Heather said, “I think you better go back to church.”

So, today I have boiled it down 5 points of summary to review.

And I’ve worded them all as things to remember about ourselves that change how we live each day.

But I’m not saying that they do justice to the book in any real way. There is just too much here to think that we can capture it all in a few words.

And I’ll probably try to sneak in some more as we go!

Here’s number one. I hope it sounds really familiar.

#1. I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL.

The book of Romans is about the gospel. The good news. It’s about the “main thing,” like we talked about last week.

The book of Romans is a letter. It’s a letter from the Apostle Paul to all of the Christians in the city of Rome.

And it’s a letter about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s read the first 7 verses to remember how Paul sets the stage.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God–the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures  regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 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. Through him 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. 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.”

I don’t want us to forget that Romans is a letter.

It’s easy to fall into thinking that Romans is a theology book because there is so much good theology in it, but it’s first and foremost a passionate pastoral letter from Paul the apostle to (v.7) “all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

Remember that phrase, “I am loved by God!”?

I’m sneaking this in! Remember we talked about putting that phrase on a notecard on your mirror and reminding yourself of it every day?

“I am loved by God.”
“I am beloved of God.”
“I am loved by the Lord.”

We learn just how much that is true in the book of Romans.

But the other key word in the verse is ALL. A-L-L. The letter was written to all of the Christians at Rome, not just the Jews or not just the Gentiles.

There was, apparently, tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians at Rome. Remember that? And Paul sets out his presentation of the gospel not just to teach them the gospel but to apply the gospel to their tensions and conflicts and bring them together in unity.

That’s what we’re going to see next week in Romans 14. Paul is going to bring together everything he’s been teaching on the gospel and get it working on bringing unity to a church that was heavily tempted to be divided.

And he does it by teaching them the gospel.

He feels like it’s his obligation before God. Look at verse 14.

“I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

That was our first Hide the Word verse from the book of Romans.

And with good reason. In many ways, that’s the thesis statement of this entire letter.

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, and neither should we be.

Why would we be ashamed of the gospel?

There is no good reason but there are plenty of bad ones.

It’s easy to approve of the gospel here in this room where we all agree, but it’s much harder out there where people are hostile to it.

Many people are hostile to the gospel today.
And people were hostile to it in Paul’s day, too.

But that didn’t matter to Paul. He was not going to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why? Because the gospel had power in it. The power of salvation. To ALL, everyone, who believes. First for the Jew and then also for the Gentile.

Notice that. Both Jew and Gentile again. That’s important in Romans, isn’t it?

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because that’s where the power is.

Be afraid of getting your power from anywhere else than the gospel.

And it’s the power of salvation.

That’s important because of the second big thing we learned in Romans:

#2. I AM DESPERATELY IN NEED OF SALVATION.

Here’s how we said it when we studied this the first time.

To understand the good news you first have to understand...what?  The bad news.

Here’s the bad news:

We are bad, and God is mad.

And rightfully so.

We have a problem.

We have a righteousness problem. The problem is that we are not righteous.

We need righteousness but we don’t have it on our own.

And because of that, we are desperately in need of salvation.

Look at verses 18-20.

“The wrath of God [the just anger of God] is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

We push down the knowledge of God because we don’t want to be accountable to Him.

But deep down we know that we are.

And we are without excuse.

The rest of chapter 1 tells us the bad news. Humanity is wicked, and we deserve condemnation.

We have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator!” (V.25).

Humans have become “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. [We] are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. [We] are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; [we] invent ways of doing evil; [we] disobey their parents; [we] are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although [we] know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, [we] not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (29-32).

And judgment is coming.

We are desperately in need of salvation.

That’s the bad news. And then we learned the even worse news.

And that’s that we can’t wiggle out of problem.

Chapter 2 shows the Jews who might have thought that they had a leg up on the non-Jews when it came to salvation that they were in just as bad a predicament as the Gentiles.

And that’s true of us who might think that being “pretty good” is enough.

It’s not enough. And following the law is not good enough.

We are all in the same boat. We are all desperately in need of salvation.

Or as our second memory verse said, “[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...”

All.

That should keep us humble. Shouldn’t it?

It’s so easy to pass judgment on other people.

I think that’s what I hate the most about social media these days. It’s so easy to broadcast our judgment of other people and heap shame on them for not being as good and wise and smart and wonderful as we are.

But we are, on our own, desperately in need of salvation.

That’s who we are.

“There is no one righteous, not even one...” (3:10).

That’s the bad news and the even worse news, but the worst news of all is that there is nothing we can do about it.

We cannot solve our own righteousness problem.

On our own, we are doomed.

But that’s where the good news comes in, doesn’t it?

That’s where the gospel really gets rolling.

Because God has solved our righteous problem for us.

Or as Paul said in chapter 1, verse 17.

He’s not ashamed of the gospel, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

#3. I AM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE.

God has solved our righteousness problem.

He has solved our dikaiosunai problem. And He’s even solved His own righteousness problem.

Not that He is unrighteous but He would be if He kept on forgiving sinners without bringing justice.

Here’s how he did it. Look at chapter 3, verses 21 through 26. Maybe the most important paragraph in the letter.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law [apart from our works!], has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [rightesousified] freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. [How did that work? How did God redeem us?],  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement [or propitiation] through faith in his blood [the Cross]. He did this to demonstrate his justice [His righteousness], because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

We are justified by faith alone.

That is such good news!

The rest of the world thinks that we get saved by being good and doing good and doing more good than we did bad.

But the gospel of grace says that we are saved by trusting alone in Jesus and what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

Or as Paul says in chapter 3, verse 28.

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

Have you trusted in Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross for you?

That’s how you get justified. That’s how you get the righteousness you need to be saved.

Or as we memorized in chapter 6, verse 23.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And only in Him. In trusting Him.

I am justified by faith alone.

Do you believe that?

A lot of people find that hard to believe.

Paul ran into a lot of people who found that hard to believe.

Including a lot of Jews.

In chapter 4, Paul says, “But it’s always been that way. Look at Father Abraham! That’s how Abraham was saved. Abraham was justified by faith. ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

We are justified by faith in Jesus alone.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and Justifier, then I invite you to do so right now.

Romans 10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’” (10:9-11).

I am justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

And that makes all of the difference both now and forever.

#4. I AM BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE IN JESUS CHRIST.

In chapter 5, Paul starts to list the blessings of justification.  If we are justified then we have everything imaginable and beyond imagine going for us.  Listen to first few verses of chapter 5.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

And he just picks up steam from there.

Peace, access, grace, hope, glory, joy, love, salvation from wrath, reconciliation, and so much more!

Paul compares the awful things that we deserved in Adam and the blessings we get from being in Christ.

And it just gets better and better. Grace abounding. Grace increasing.

We blessed beyond measure.

In fact, it almost seems to good to be true.

I think, in some ways, that’s why Paul wrote chapters 6 through 11.

In those chapters he answers the objections that people raise to his gospel of grace.

People are saying, “Wait, wait, wait. What about this Paul? What about this?”

“This abounding grace stuff sound too good to be true.”

In fact, it could easily get abused. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

What’s Paul’s answer to that?

“As if!”  Remember the Greek phrase he likes to use? “May genoita.” “May it never be.”

That’s crazy talk. Are you seriously asking that?

Paul answers every objection and every question.

No, believing this gospel does not lead to more sin.

Because when you believe this gospel everything changes for you.

You become a new person.

And you get a new master.

You enter into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sin is no longer your master and neither is the Law of Moses.

Do you remember this stuff? Chapters 6 and 7?

We don’t have time to go over it all again today. We’re going to this table right here.

But Paul answers every objection and shows how we now have new relationship with sin and death and the Law. We have died to them.

Yes, we still sin. And in fact, we struggle with sin greatly so much that we often despair. But that’s a good thing. It means that we hate our sin and we love our Savior.

And He will see us through. He will rescue us from this body of death.

We are blessed beyond measure in Jesus Christ.

And it doesn’t any more glorious than what we find in the “Great Eight.” Romans 8.

We memorized verse 1 together. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Why? Because we have the son. And because we have the Spirit!

Chapter eight is all about life in the Spirit.

We have the Spirit of Sonship. (Not Sun Chips!)

He lives in us now that we believe and that makes all of the difference.

We live now according to the Spirit.

We belong to God.
We are His children.
By Him we call, “Abba, Father.”
He testifies with our spirit that are God’s children.

He helps us in our weakness.
He helps us to pray.
He prays for us.

I am blessed beyond measure because of the Holy Spirit!

Do you remember this stuff?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But what about Israel?

There is one objection to his gospel that actually worries Paul.

You and I don’t tend to think about it, but it was on Paul’s mind.

Remember how he went from soaring joy in the great chapter 8 to his “sorrow and unceasing anguish” in chapter 9?

It’s because of what we called “The Problem of Israel.”

God had made so many great promises to Israel, but look around. So few Israeli Christians.

Has the word of God failed?

The answer is “No.” Chapter 9, verse 6. “It is not as though God’s word had failed.”

And Paul takes 3 chapters to show that it is true.

God always keeps His promises.

He has kept His promises to Israel.
He is keeping His promises to Israel.
And He will keep His promises to Israel.

God always keeps His promises.

He hasn’t done it like we might have expected.

He actually is using the Gentiles to save the Jews.

Who would have thought of that?

God does things in His own mysterious ways. Chapter 11, verse 33.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Which leads to our last point for today before we go to the table.

#5. I AM BEING TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL.

In chapter 12, Paul looks back over 11 sweeping chapters of God’s grace and mercy in the gospel and calls us to apply the gospel to our whole lives.

Remember our last memory verse in Romans? 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Give your whole self to God and allow God to change your whole self through His truth.

Be changed. Be transformed.

We had four messages on chapter 12 and how God wants a transformed people.

Transforming how we think about ourselves.
Transforming how we relate to each other.
Transforming how we use our gifts to serve the body of Christ.
Transforming how we act.

Listen to chapter 12 verses 9 through 21.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.

On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That’s impossible!

It’s impossible to live that way.

Unless we have the transforming power of God’s grace at work in our life.

The same thing is true of chapter 13.

It’s almost impossible to submit to the governing authorities in the way that Paul says that we should unless God’s grace is transforming us.

Have you given yourself wholly to God in the way verse 1 says to?

Have you climbed up on that altar and presented your life to the Lord in view of His amazing grace?

And are you allowing yourself to become a new person by His grace?

Do you look more and more like verses 9 through 21?

The gospel is the power of God to save us and to change us.

To change us into the image of Jesus.

Chapter 13 ends this way. It ends with a call to know what time it is.

It’s time to wake up and put on Christ. V.11

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

May this be true of all of us.

May we be transformed by the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

***

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
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore
25. How to Think of Yourself
26. A Transformed People (Part One)
27. A Transformed People (Part Two)
28. A Transformed People (Part Three)
30. A Transformed People (Part Four)
31. God's Servants

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