A Third Way of Relating to God

Steve Viars January 14, 2018 Romans 1-4
Outline

1 Corinthians 3:11 - For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:10 - …each man must be careful how he builds on it.

1 Corinthians 3:12 - Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 - …each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

I. Identify the Gospel’s “Two Enemies”

A. Irreligion

1. Also known as:

a. Antinomianism

anti - against

nomos - law

b. Relativism

Romans 1:18 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…

2. Characterized by:

a. suppressing the truth of God which He made evident to them – v. 19-20

b. Refusing to honor Him as God or be thankful – v. 21a

c. While professing to be wise, became foolish in their speculations and darkening heart – v. 21b – 22

d. Exchanged the worship of the true God for false idols – v. 23, 25

e. Used their hearts and bodies for impurity and dishonor – v. 24 - 27

f. Were given over to depraved minds and disobedient lives – vv. 31

g. Gave hearty approval to those who chose a similar path – v. 32

B. Religion

1. Also known as:

a. legalism

b. moralism

2. Characterized by:

a. Judgmentalism – v. 2:1-3

b. Lack of genuine repentance – 2:4-16

c. Relying on their own attempts to keep selective portions of the law – 2:17-29

d. Under sin equally to the Gentiles – 3:1-20

“The gospel is neither religion nor irreligion, but something else entirely – a third way of relating to God through grace.  Because of this, we minister in a uniquely different way that avoids the errors of either extreme and faithfully communicates the sharpness of the gospel.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, p. 27)

C. Two preliminary applicational questions

1. Are you sure that you are not building your life and eternal destiny on one of these two possible wrong foundations?

2. As a Christian, are you sure that you are not building on the foundation of Christ with one or both of these enemies of the gospel?

II. Consider How the Superiority of the Gospel over These “Two Enemies” is Illustrated in Other Places in Scripture

A. Luke 7 – Jesus dining at the Pharisee’s house

“If you are communicating the gospel message, you must not only help listeners distinguish between obeying God and disobeying Him; you must also make clear the distinction between obeying God as a means of self-salvation and obeying God out of gratitude for an accomplished salvation.  You will have to distinguish between general, moralistic religion and gospel Christianity.  You will always be placing three ways to live before your listeners.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, p. 65-66)

B. Luke 18 – the men in the temple

III. Act on the Implications of Gospel Centered Sanctification and Ministry

A. Personal change – overcoming the sin of grumbling

B. Parenting – helping your children get along with each other

C. Urban ministry

- imagine if all of us received a push notification on our phones early this morning on our phones informing us that the County Building Commissioner had just completed an overnight examination and determined that 70% of the foundations under every home and business in our community was defective…

- would we all agree that would be a very bad day?...

- there would be instant uncertainty about whether we should stay in our homes…whether we should go to a church or a restaurant today…

- to our places of work and business tomorrow…

- having properly designed and installed foundations in the buildings around us is crucial in our daily lives…there’s no doubt about that…

- well, what if we received a subsequent correction that on further review…the examination hadn’t been conducted by the Building Commissioner [that initial report was inaccurate]…the inspection was actually performed by the God of heaven and earth…

- and what was being tested was not the integrity of the physical foundations of our buildings but the integrity of our spiritual foundations of our lives and eternal destiny…

- but interestingly…the percentage was about the same…

- a full 70% of them were found to be defective by God Himself…

- now, when that correction came out…would that result in increased concern or a sigh of relief?...

- would you say – well, at least my house is safe, and the mall, and Mackey Arena…and Starbucks…

- or would you say – if there’s some question about the reliability of my spiritual…or that of my friends, and family, and neighbors, and co-workers—then that’s an issue I want to give careful attention to right away?...

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Romans chapter 1 this am…page 119 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our theme this year is Being Careful How We Build…and we’re taking that directly from 1 Corinthians chapter 3, verses 10-15…

- we introduced all of this last week [FW – on January 7th] and if for some reason you weren’t able to be there, I would encourage you to find a time to go one line and listen to that message which was focused on the questions for 2018 – Why are We Here, Where Are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?...

- but Paul explains in that passage – that for Christians…praise the Lord – the foundation is secure…

- 1 Corinthians 3:11 - For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

- we’re going to talk more this am about exactly what that means and how it works out in everyday life…

- but by God’s grace, for a Christian…the foundation is secure…

- but what’s in question is, the degree of carefulness with which we build…which is why Paul says in the verses directly before and after the one we just read…

- 1 Corinthians 3:10 - …each man must be careful how he builds on it.

- we’ve all seen houses or commercial buildings where as far as we know, the foundation was fine…but what that person built on it was a hot mess…in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons…the person just wasn’t careful about how he built…and then verse…

- 1 Corinthians 3:12 - Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

- see, two entirely different kinds of building materials…

- one valuable…one not

- one permanent…one not…

- and the goal is that followers of Jesus Christ would be more careful about the way we build on our foundation every day…

- so since we’ve seen each other last….there’s been another 7 days of building…

- you realize…your building is bigger than it was a week ago…and that’s not a reminder to get busy on that post-holiday diet…

- it’s an affirmation that we’ve spent seven days making cultivating thoughts, and speaking words, and making decisions, and expending time, and expending money…

- and hopefully because of what we’ve already studied this year…you’re finding yourself being more attuned to this conceptualization practically…

- why did you wake up early and spend time in the Scriptures and prayer before you started your day?...

- because you wanted to grow in your adoration for your Redeemer…you wanted to be careful how you built…

- why did you stop mid-sentence before launching into yet another verse of the here-we-go-round the Mulberry bush argument with your spouse…and instead say, honey—how about if joined hands and asked the Lord to help us discuss this in a way that honored Him…

- and then you consciously chose not to speak any words that were just careless, and worthless, and destructive, and temporal…

- in other words – in the power of Christ you were not going to speak any wood, or stubble, and hay…

- only words that were like gold, silver, and precious stones…

- what was going on in that moment if in fact a moment like that occurred…in the power of Christ you were being careful how you built…

- now the Scripture goes on to complete that thought by explaining…that for Christians, all of this will be tested…

- 1 Corinthians 3:13–15 - each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

- that’s why Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe said – as a Christian, I don’t fear the fire of hell, but I do fear the fire of heaven…

- so, we want to be careful how we build…

- now, for these first several weeks of the year…we want to focus on…

- Building on the Foundation of the Gospel…let’s read beginning in verse 18 to get a flavor of why all of this is so important

read Romans 1:18-32

- we’re encouraging everyone at all of our campuses to read this book this year…Center Church by Tim Keller - the subtitle is – Doing balanced, gospel centered ministry in your city

- you can get this book at our FE resource center, on Amazon – you can download it to your Kindle…or one of our members posted something on our church’s FB page that I hadn’t even considered…that you can download the audio version of the book from our local library for free…

- now, I explained that this is a challenging book – Keller is writing at a fairly high level…but I really believe that especially in a year when we are launching a new church and community center and an entire array of urban ministries…along with seeking to strengthen everything we’re doing at all our campuses…

- that one of the keys is having as high a percentage as possible of our members knowing and applying these concepts ministry wide – but also in each of our personal lives and families as well…

- it’s easy to be busy – it’s hard to be effective…and we want to tether everything we’re doing tightly to the gospel of Jesus Christ…we want to be careful how we build…

- I appreciate the many people who have already said they’re digging into the book…

- our pastors and deacons are going to be working our way through it all year…

- I know some of our small groups will take it up as well…

- and in these early weeks of 2018, our pastors are going to be summarizing the main emphases of the book to guide us as we read…

- now you might say – well, based on what we just read – it’s pretty obvious why the gospel is necessary – look at the rebellious, sinful condition of the culture in which we live…

- well, on the one hand – that’s true…the good news of Jesus Christ is an antidote to the irreligious culture described in Romans 1…but here’s the overall point for us this am…

- there isn’t just one enemy of the gospel – there’s two…and Paul is about to explain that in ways that would have been absolutely shocking to his audience..

- but it provides a framework for us that is crucial as we plan out or our sanctification…our own growth…because it is amazingly easy to fall into one of these traps…

- and it also provides a framework for our church’s ministry…regardless of what campus we’re speaking about around town…or our ministry anywhere on God’s earth…

- so our point today is…The Gospel – A Third Way of Relating to God

- now you might say – wait a minute – I just saw 2 options in what we read…that’s because we’re not done reading…

- but what we’re looking for here is 3 steps to bring clarity to the gospel…and the first one is…

I. Identify the Gospel’s “Two Enemies”

- we already read about the first in Romans 1…

A. Irreligion

- when they knew God [in their consciences] – they didn’t glorify Him as God…they were irreligious…

- now, there are other ways we could describe such an approach to live…

1. Also known as:

a. Antinomianism – and we’re not trying to throw big words around here…but

- anti - means against

- nomos - law

- so antinomian means lawless…just another way of describing a person who’s lawless…

b. Relativism – no absolute truth from an external standard

- so in other words, people who choose to be unbelievers…it’s the condition of being irreligious, or antinomian, or those who reject any standard of truth or morality outside their own feelings or belief system…

- and please remember, Paul is writing to the church at…Rome…a culture of men and women who would have prided themselves on their own goodness, and their own wisdom, and their own superiority…and yet Paul could not have been any clearer…such persons have a foundation problem…

- Romans 1:18 -            For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

- it doesn’t get any worse than that…and you saw some of Paul’s descriptions…

2. Characterized by:

a. suppressing the truth of God which He made evident to them – v. 19-20

b. Refusing to honor Him as God or be thankful – v. 21a

c. While professing to be wise, became foolish in their speculations and darkening heart – v. 21b – 22

d. Exchanged the worship of the true God for false idols – v. 23, 25

e. Used their hearts and bodies for impurity and dishonor – v. 24 - 27

f. Were given over to depraved minds and disobedient lives – vv. 31

g. Gave hearty approval to those who chose a similar path – v. 32

- sadly that may be the best one-chapter summary of the culture in which we live in all the word of God…and you just imagine a citizen of Rome being horrified by this stinging indictment of his or her irreligion…

- but…and this is the point thus far…there was another group, standing off the side tapping their collective feet…

- and Paul is about to train his sights directly on them…do you know it is?...the religious…men and women from the Jewish nation who had grown up with God’s name in their ears and his words on their foreheads…

- but whose hearts and lives were just as far away from the Lord…just for an opposite set of reasons…

- we can’t read all of this, but even a cursory overview gives us a flavor…

- read 2:1-3…who’s the “you”…

- to cut to the chase…please look at verse 17…read 17-24 (through – “because of you”)

- obviously, this is an entirely different group of people, or approach to living…

- but Paul is equally concerned about them…and their indictment goes all the way through chapter 3:20…

B. Religion

1. Also known as:

a. legalism

b. moralism

2. Characterized by:

a. Judgmentalism – v. 2:1-3

b. Lack of genuine repentance – 2:4-16

c. Relying on their own attempts to keep selective portions of the law – 2:17-29

d. Under sin equally to the Gentiles – 3:1-20

- we’re skipping a lot for sake of time…but please look at chapter 3, verse 9 for a summary of all of this…read 3:9-10…3:23…

- the point is – the irreligious…and the religious…are equally lost before a holy God…which is what sets us up for an understanding of the gospel…read 3:23-25…irreligious, lawless, relativist people need Christ…and religious, logistic, moralists need Him every bit as much…

- Keller summarizes all of this simply by saying…The gospel is neither religion nor irreligion, but something else entirely – a third way of relating to God through grace.  Because of this, we minister in a uniquely different way that avoids the errors of either extreme and faithfully communicates the sharpness of the gospel (Center Church, p. 27).

- now, let’s come up for air and consider…

C. Two preliminary applicational questions

- [preliminary because we want to add more meat to this skeleton in a minute…]

1. Are you sure that you are not building your life and eternal destiny on one of these two possible wrong foundations?

- there are plenty of people in our town and every town who are choosing to suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness…they’re irreligious, a law unto themselves, relativists…

-   and if you find yourself in that condition…the goods is – there is room at the cross for you…why not acknowledge your need and place your faith and trust in Christ as both your Savior and Lord…

- last week after our first message of the year a gentleman went out to work with a co-worker who came to church with him and he chose to become a Christian…

2. As a Christian, are you sure that you are not building on the foundation of Christ with one or both of these enemies of the gospel?

- the principles of the gospel apply just as much to your sanctification – your growth as they to do to your salvation…

- let’s pull a random example out of the air – if it happens to fit your story, that’s between you and the Lord…let’s take the matter of communication…

- on the one hand, there are some people who say there are Christians…but it certainly hasn’t affected the way they use their tongue…

- so that person says whatever he or she feels like saying…they are lawless, relativists, they are irreligious…

- and if that person is truly a Christian, their tongue needs to become tethered to the gospel…to the notion that Jesus Christ redeemed them from the power of sin and that He now can help them change and that He expects them to change in this and every other area of human life…

- but here’s the point that I think probably a fair number of us need to hear…

- it’s also possible to try to change the way we communicate like a legalist, or a moralist, or just a religious person in the worst sense of that word…

- often meaning – I’m going to grab a few verses about communication from the Bible…and I’m going to try to stop saying those kinds of things…or start saying these kinds of things…

- but entirely apart from the person and work of Christ…

- here’s what that looks like in counseling…most of us are familiar with the four rules of communication from Ephesians chapter 4 – my guess is we could have all sorts of people right now stand to their feet and recite them – Be Honest, Keep Current, Attack the Problem, not the Person, Act, Don’t React…

- many here to even recite the verses from Ephesians 4 from which those principles are taken…

- but I imagine every person who serves in our community counseling center could tell some version of this story…where you teach a couple the four rules of communication…and give homework about various ways to apply the four rules of communication…

- and the next week they come back and you ask them how things went the last seven days and they say – oh, we had a terrible fight…

- oh, I’m sorry to hear that – about what?...

- about the four rules of communication…how could you possibly argue about the four rules of communication?...

- we fought about all the ways the other person was violating them…

- in other words, they used principles from the word of God as clubs to beat each other over the head and continue the same sinful, self-centered patterns they had been in all along…

- that’s judgmental legalism…that’s moralism…that’s religion in its worst form…

- and it’s just as far away from the cross as the irreligious person…just in the opposite direction…

- and the question that would asked at that point is – where is Jesus in all of that?...the gospel is nowhere to be found…see, it has two enemies, not one…

II. Consider How the Superiority of the Gospel Over These “Two Enemies” is Illustrated in Other Places in Scripture.

- please turn over to Luke chapter 7 – page 50 – this is like shooting fish in a barrel now because the examples of there being not one enemy of the gospel but two is found all over the Word of God…

- but let’s play the “how many people in this passage need the gospel” game…

A. Luke 7 – Jesus dining at the Pharisee’s house

- read Luke 7:36-39

- now, in the Pharisee’s mind…how many people needed the gospel?...one, this woman he called a sinner…and by the way, the passage is very clear in verse 37 that she was…

- and in the framework we’re setting up this morning – which category would she have fallen into, at least up till this point?...irreligious, antinomian, relativist

- but is that really who this passage is about…and is that our Lord’s primary concern?...

- [if time – read Luke 7:40-50]…

- No, there was a second enemy of the gospel – and this Pharisee would have fit into what category of our conceptualization…the legalist, the moralist, the religious person…

- “If you are communicating the gospel message, you must not only help listeners distinguish between obeying God and disobeying Him; you must also make clear the distinction between obeying God as a means of self-salvation and obeying God out of gratitude for an accomplished salvation.  You will have to distinguish between general, moralistic religion and gospel Christianity.  You will always be placing three ways to live before your listeners” (Center Church, p. 65-66).

- do you know what would be an interesting test…is if God would divide every person in Tippecanoe County into one of those three categories…I wonder how the numbers would shake out?

- do you know what would be even more interesting?...if God would divide every person who will hear this message today into one of those three categories…

- now let’s look at one more before we try to make several specific applications of all of this…

- you’re in Luke 7 – please turn over a few pages to Luke 18…

B. Luke 18 – the men in the temple

- read Luke 18:9-17

- well, the point is obvious to us…but if we were just watching these men live…apart from hearing any of the conversation…

- we might have drawn two wrong conclusions…

1. that there was only one person in need of the gospel…this tax collector….

- but the other man by his own testimony – was not a swindler, he was not unjust, he was not an adulterer…he fasted twice a week…he paid tithes on all he received…

- the second fellow sounds pretty good to me, how about you?...

- and how they fit our categories should be obvious by now…

- the tax collector was irreligious, antinomian, relativist…

- but the Pharisee was religious, legalistic, moralistic…but equally lost…

- they both needed to gospel…

2. the other wrong conclusion we could possibly draw – just looking at these two men – is that if either of them would come to God, it would probably be the Pharisee…after all, he’s a lot closer already…

- there’s a very important point there…we should never prejudge anyone’s fitness for the gospel…sometimes…maybe even often times the least unlikely candidates from a human perspective are exactly the men and women the Lord chooses to redeem…

III. Act on the Implications of Gospel Centered Sanctification and Ministry

- let’s try to apply this to three different areas – personal change, parenting, and urban ministry,

A. Personal change – overcoming the sin of grumbling

- let’s say a person is in the rut of being a constant complainer…

- there are some Christians who have essentially adopted the stance – I’m saved by grace and now I can live any way I want and any suggestion to the contrary is legalism…

- that is a very pervasive and heretical emphasis in the church today…

- it’s one of the enemies of the gospel…antinomianism…lawlessness – believing there are no ethical expectations for followers of Christ after they come to Him in repentance and faith…

- but it would be equally destructive to simply grab a few verses from the Bible about being thankful, or not complaining…and try to apply them apart from the foundation of the gospel…

- now you’re just being moralistic…going through the motions in a legalistic way that won’t produce lasting change…

- how do we tether that desire to change to the gospel…

- this kind of person is going to learn to begin their day by reflecting on and rejoicing in what Christ has done on the cross…the glory of their redemption…

- so the thankfulness is coming from the inside instead of being pasted on like a piece of wax fruit…

‑ and there’s going to be substantial time spent crying out to Christ for the strength to change…an ongoing acknowledgment of our creaturely weakness…

B. Parenting – helping your children get along with each other

- let’s just say – hypothetically of course – that your children do not get along perfectly every day…they don’t always speak kindly…they don’t always share…

- some homes are extremely antinomian…

- they are child-centered…and the kids are allowed to treat one another in all sorts of selfish, sinful fashions because the parent doesn’t have the strength of character to stand up to the child’s ire…

- but is that opposite of that sheer moralism…Johnny, you know the Bible says to be kind to your sister…so share your toys or I won’t buy you any more…

- Tommy – go sit in the corner and write out Ephesians 4:32 100 times in your notebook…

- or the classic redirection – here Joey, why don’t you let your sister play with the ball while you play with this new truck?...

- or harsh discipline – just go to your rooms and don’t come out till the snow thaws…

- where’s the gospel in any of that?...where’s Jesus in any of that?...

- kids – you’ve both said that Jesus is your Lord and Savior – is that true?...yes…

- does He want to help us change?...yes…

- what are you both struggling with right now?...our sin…

- what kind of sin…our sin of selfishness…

- do you have to sin that way?...no…why not?...because Jesus freed us from being a slave to sin…

- do you have power to live differently?...yes…how do you know that…because Jesus is alive…

- what should we do now – let’s just stop and ask Him to help us do it better…

- there’s 1000 variations to that vignette – but the key is believing that moralism is an empty and lifeless substitute for the gospel…

C. Urban ministry

- I mentioned last week that I had the privilege of speaking at the HH on Christmas Eve …along with at our other campuses

- and at the HH, they gave me and our family a delicious tin of sugar cookies…

- now, it wasn’t this entire tray…but this picture is of one of our faithful volunteers at the Hub Linda Swartz…

- and the kids at the Hub had an event before Christmas where they made and decorated cookies for their families and also special tins to give away as gifts…

- they were absolutely delicious…

- but they were also great reminders of a growing group of delightful boys and girls and moms and dads in that part of town…

- and I’m so glad for the work that Joey Wright and Lori Walters and so many others are doing…and for the possibility of serving on an entirely new level of effectiveness once the NCC opens…

- but I appreciate an emphasis that Joey has made on a number of occasions…and that is, we have a lot to learn…

- and that’s true in all of our ministries at all of our campuses…

- but it comes down to finding the most effective way to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with each person we have the privilege of meeting and developing a relationship with…

- we certainly don’t want anyone, anywhere – to live in a way that is lawless, of irreligious, or relativist…

- but nor are we just teaching the Bible in the form of a legalistic checklist of certain behaviors you avoid…and others you pursue…

- that is why we are so glad for the growing number of people who have placed their faith and trust in Christ…

- our goal is to be careful how we build – to build on the foundation of the gospel…

 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video