Great News - You Really Can Change Because You've Be

Steve Viars September 1, 2007 Romans 6:15-23

 

- when Kris and first came here nearly 20 years ago now, nobody on our full time staff had a computer...

- I know that is hard for some of you to believe, but it was actually possible to have an entire organization up and running well prior to the computer age...

- but times were changing and I had had a fair amount of experience on computers as I had worked on my degree at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia so literally on my first day in the office, I was asked to go with Mike Hines, the church treasurer at the time, and Pastor Goode, our former senior pastor to select three new computers...one for Nancy Johnston our long time office manager, one for Pastor Goode, and one for me...

- so 20 years ago around here, we started working on computers...

- not long after that, Pastor Goode was asked to become the Executive Director of a national biblical counseling organization called NANC so I also became his assistant in that endeavor and my wife Kris became his secretary...

- one of our first responsibilities was to begin publishing a quarterly newsletter...which meant we had to figure out how to manage all these names and addresses for all these hundreds and hundreds of people who were requesting this newsletter...

- we couldn’t afford an outside service, so I assumed someone would have to manually write in, or type in those mailing labels each quarter...

- maybe you can imagine my shock when I first heard the word database...

- someone explained to me that you could enter those names in once...

- and then print out mailing labels on our little dot matrix printed any time we wanted...

- so somebody [probably Kris] entered all the data---and then we tried to print the labels...

- and it took us a few times because it was all new to us...but I can hardly describe to you what it was like to watch that dot matrix printer print off those label in alphabetical order...each one perfectly positioned on the label...it almost brought tears to my eyes...

- so then we had folks peel off those labels and affix them to the newsletters...

- but then we had to prepare the mailing...

- we needed to take advantage of bulk postal rates...so that meant we had to get all those newsletters from alphabetical order to zip code order....

- so here’s how we did that in the early days...

- have you ever played the game Racko—where you have 10 cards with numbers on them and you have to get them in your rack in the right sequence...

- on the Viars living room floor—our family would have this giant game of Racko...with hundreds and hundreds of newsletters...

- we would have them all over the place until we finally got them in zip code order...and we did mailings like that for quite a while...

- now if you’re tracking with this story and you know even a little bit about computers, you probably have a question...why didn’t we, instead of printing the labels off in alphabetical order according to the person’s last name...why didn’t we just have the computer print the labels off in zip code order?...

- the answer is...I had no idea the computer could do that...

- I assumed there was only one way to get the data out---only one way to make it print the labels...

- and please understand, I was so happy it was doing what it was doing it never dawned on me that it could do more...

- and I can remember the day when I learned that with a few simple keystrokes, the whole process became so much easier...and was just sick at all of the hours and hours that had been wasted...

- here’s the principle – Just because you have the capacity doesn’t mean you’re benefiting from it...

- now you might look at me after hearing that and say – you’re really a goof...

- here’s why I told that story – it’s because that same thing could be true of a believer’s growth...

- there might be a way for you to handle your anger in an entirely different fashion—but just because you have the capacity doesn’t mean you’re benefiting from it...

- there might be an entirely different way of overcoming temptation...

- there might be an entirely different quality of friendships, or marriage, or family relationships...

- there might be an entirely different way of dealing with finances...

- there might be an entirely different way of being effective in ministry...

- all of a sudden, our continuing to sort mailings by hand because we didn’t realize there was a better way pales in comparison to a follower of Christ who might be trying to grow, change, or live for God without benefiting from all the resources at his/her disposal...

- that is the apostle Paul’s concern in Romans chapters 6-8, and that’s where I’d like you to direct your attention again this morning...

- please open your Bible to Romans 6:15 [page 122 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- our theme this fall is...Reaching New Heights in our Ability to Grow.

- we working verse by verse through the most extensive passage in the entire NT on this subject...

- formally, we’re talking about the doctrine of progressive sanctification...specifically how a person changes and grows and becomes more of what God wants them to be...

- 2 weeks ago we began this study by working our way through verses 1-14 which emphasize the doctrine of our union with Christ...

- Paul understands that the emphasis he’s made in chapters 4-5 about the centrality of grace...that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...he understands that many people [both then and now] would say...well, that’s too easy...people won’t be motivated to row in personal holiness if their salvation is simply a gift that they receive at the hand of a gracious God who has sent His son to die for their sins...

- and Paul addresses that head on...and what he said was...that position fails to understand what happens the moment a person believes in Christ...

- there’s a union...the person is now in Christ...and Christ is in him...

- and yes it’s a mystery...we’ll never fully understand all of this...

- but the moment you place your faith and trust in Him, you die with Christ, and you’re buried with Christ, and you’re raised to new life in Christ...that means you’re not alone in your struggle...

- that’s why Paul ended that discussion by saying in verse 11 – Romans 6:11 – Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

- in other words, you have to mentally factor that in to each situation you face...

- so the homework we gave 2 weeks ago was...if we’re serious as a church family about reaching new heights in our ability to grow...then please be looking for ways where you can factor your union with Christ into the way you face the challenges of daily living...

- now, what do you think I’m about to ask you?...

- did you do that?...there are opportunities for that all the time...

- for example, I had the privilege of preparing this sermon twice...

- it was the week before I left for Moldova so I was trying to finalize the preparation for that trip but also prepare for today...

- on the day I was scheduled to do this, the Tuesday before we left...the guys working on the road across the street cut a wire and all the power went out to the entire church building...though at first they thought they would have it back on in a few hours, it turned out to be off all day...

- for some reason, it did not affect the power at the community center...

- so I got one of our church laptops, gathered up my books and notes, and headed over to the community center to work on the message...

- it was a little different because I didn’t have access  to all of our electronic study tools because our network was down...but I got it done and was very thankful that the message was completed so I could spend the remaining two days before we left preparing for Moldova...

- when I was finished, our network still wasn’t up so I couldn’t save it on the network, and I asked a couple people if they had a memory stick and nobody did...

- I was in a hurry so I saved it on the laptop and assumed I would just get it off the laptop in the morning—send it around to the appropriate people---and get on with things...

- the problem was, when I turned on the laptop the next morning, there was no sermon file...

- and after getting a few computer savvy people involved, it turns out that we have one laptop in our building that doesn’t allow you to save documents because it is a utility laptop we use to run power point around the building and we don’t want it slowed down with a bunch of other saved docs...so as soon as you turn that machine off...whatever you thought you saved goes away...

- now, we face those kinds of situations all the time, don’t we?...

- and I’m not going to lie to you and say that I sang a few stanzas of amazing grace and gave everybody involved in that situation a hug...

- but those are the very situations where we can face them in our strength and power...as if we’re pretty much on our own...

- that’s when the sinful anger is going to start, and the harsh words are going to start, and the finding somebody to blame is going to start...

- or, we can factor our union with Christ into the picture...

- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...

- this is not a surprise to Him...it’s His time...if He wants it used this way, get happy about it...

- the truth is...I could have/should have worked harder at finding a better way to back up the file...

- you are not alone in the struggle---and what I’m asking you this morning is...have you had opportunities in the last couple of weeks where you tried to please God by factoring in the doctrine of your union with Christ to the challenge you were facing?...

- now, if you would say...that is a mental discipline that is difficult to develop, especially in the heat of the moment...and these concepts are obscure enough that you really have to work at benefiting from them...

- that may be why Paul continues to develop and expand these ideas over such an extended passage of Scripture...to be sure that we really get it...

- the theme in verses 15-23 is...Great News—You Really Can Change Because You’ve Been Set Free.

 - with that in mind, let’s see how Paul develops this idea...READ Romans 6:15-23

- with the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three principles to help you celebrate and act on your union with Christ.

I. Remember that Everybody is a Slave to Something.

- that is clearly the emphasis of verse 16...

A. It comes down to what you present yourself to.

- that theme comes up repeatedly in this passage...

- and I believe that if we can get this, and learn to apply this, it will help us greatly...

- please connect the ideas of “what you present yourself to” and the theme of slavery...

- both themes are very prominent in this text, and both of them would have been easily understood in their culture...

- the picture is “reporting for duty”...or placing yourself at somebody else’s disposal...

- it is the person who solemnly commits his wholeheartedly allegiance...

- or the soldier who promises to die for his king...

1. cf. Matthew 26:53 – Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

- the phrase “put at my disposal” is the same as “present yourself” in Romans 6.

- these angels would be reporting for service.

2. cf. Romans 12:2 – “...present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

- present your body to the service of your king...

- and Paul is saying, you “present yourself” to something or someone all the time...

- now, you say, what does this look like?...

- well, let’s say somebody mistreats you, or disappoints you, or annoys you, or fails you...

- what happens next?...

3. in your inner man.

- your mind and heart start racing...

- you are presenting your mind to any number of possible belief systems...

- I have a right to get them back...or I have a right to cut them off...you’re presenting your mind to that...

- here I am, King anger, reporting my mind to duty...

- here I am, Lord bitterness...my mind is ready to serve you again...

- or, Christ is up to something, and He’s up to something good...

- so here I am, Lord Jesus...and I am going to think about ways I can bless those who persecute me, or I am going to think about ways I can return good for evil...I am presenting my mind to you, my great king...

- of course, it doesn’t stop there...because not long after that mistreatment...

4. in your outer man.

- you are presenting your lips for action...

- and you are presenting the tone of your voice for action...

- and you’re presenting the look on your face...and your are presenting your subsequent deeds...

- we are presenting ourselves to someone or something all the time...

- now, here’s where that goes next...

B. Those choices become enslaving.

- please fill in this blank...Human beings are creatures of ____________ [habit].

- and that is true of our inner man, and that is true of our outer man...

- and the principle of Scripture is that what you present yourself to will eventually become your master...

- the more you do it, the easier it will be...for good or ill...verse 16 also tells us this:

C. These choices have consequences.

1. Sin – resulting in death.

- death in the Bible is always separation...

- and some of God’s people presented themselves to sinful habits this week, and it resulted in...

- the death of a friendship...the sin separated you from each other...

- or the death of an opportunity...the sin separated you from accomplishing the mission for which he brought the other person who mistreated you along in the first place

- for others, I have to be honest with the Scripture on this...for some who continually present themselves to sin, and present themselves to sin...Scripture is clear in places like I Corinthians 11...because of that, some of you are sickly and some of you have died...

- even worse is what the Scripture describes as the second death for those who refuse to trust Christ...separation from God forever...

- thank the Lord for the alternative...

2. Obedience – resulting in righteousness.

- for the person who says, I am trying to learn to present myself to God...

- I am trying to discipline my mind to report to duty for Him...and my actions to report to duty for Him...

- over time that becomes more natural...more habitual...

- like it used to be that sin was the natural ruts in the road, now righteousness is...

- the message of the Scripture is that everybody is a slave to something...

II. Understand that Followers of Christ went from being Enslaved to Something that was Bad to being Enslaved to Something that was Good.

- that is the point of verses 17-18...grace doesn’t free you up to live life your way, grace frees you up to live life God’s way...

- a key verse in all of this is Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

- and I realize that some folks might chafe under what Paul is saying here...but let me point out logically that freedom without restraint is anarchy...

- it’s like all these airplanes we were on to get to Europe and back...at some point in the flight they turn on the sign that indicates that you’re “free to walk about the cabin...”

- not really...not free to go up and say hello to the pilot...

- not free to rifle through everybody’s carry on luggage...

- not free to open the door and check the weather outside the plan...

- not free to go sit on the wing and have a smoke...

- and that’s one of the problems with people in our country...they want freedom without restraint which is why we are not simply a nation of freedom...we are also a nation of laws...that govern the way those freedoms can be exercised...

- we also have to add this – it’s not like there’s some moral neutral ground here...

- you can’t say...I’m not enslaved to sin...but I’m not going to be enslaved to Christ...I’m just going to be enslaved to...me...

- Scripture makes it clear that that is not one of your options...Jesus said that you are either for me or against me...

- and as hard as it is for some Americans to acknowledge this...you and I are not qualified to be master...

- and followers of Christ get that...often having done some serious damage by trying to run the show when we weren’t qualified...

- I’ll drive the car---I can be in charge---crash...

- and we humble ourselves, and acknowledge....we need a Savior, and we need a Lord...

A. This transaction occurs at a point in time.

- did you see how this is described in verse 17?...

- 17 - ...you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.

- that is a marvelous way to describe the salvation process...

- God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sin...and then he offers the possibility of establishing a personal relationship with Him through trusting Christ as Savior and Lord...

- and then He “commands all men everywhere to be saved”...

- which means the gospel is not simply a gift to be accepted, or a message to be believed, it is a command to be obeyed...

- and I would just ask everybody here, has there been a definite time in you life where you admitted your need and placed your faith and trust in Christ?...

B. The result of this transaction was doubly delicious. 

- what verse 18 is describing is like getting 2 scoops of ice cream on your cone...

1. You are freed from sin.

- the only way you can escape being enslaved to sin is the powerful blood of Christ....

- what can wash away my sin...nothing but the blood of Jesus...

- what can make me whole again...nothing but the blood of Jesus...

- Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow

- no other fount I know...nothing but the blood of Jesus...

- and Christ did all of that to rescue us from our enslavement...

- but here’s what is critical for us to understand...as marvelous as this is...it’s not enough...

- if you’re disconnected from what’s wrong...but not connected to what’s right...eventually you’ll be right back in the same problem again...

- we are not capable of handling our freedoms on our own...

- [at best, it would be Genesis 2 all over again...and it wouldn’t be long until it was Genesis 3...]

2. You are enslaved to righteousness.

- friend, here’s one of my questions for you this am – is that where you are, and is that where you want to be?...

- cf. the objection – but sometimes I don’t feel like doing things God’s way...cf. pilot training – becoming enslaved to their instruments, even to the point of putting a hood on that prevents them from look out the side windows...that’s what it takes to be an “instrument rated pilot”....can’t fly in bad weather unless you are---cf. John Kennedy Jr. – got caught in a storm, wasn’t instrument rated...may have experienced vertigo because they say that flying in those conditions can be very deceiving...]

- cf. also the Bible being described as “the perfect law of liberty”...

- see, is this where you are [enslaved to righteousness] and is that where you want to be?...

III. Determine that You Will Bring Your Practice in Line with Your Position, Believing There are Tremendous Benefits in Doing So.

A. Learn to present yourself as a “slave to righteousness”.

1) in your daily, personal time with the Lord...

2) when you have an opportunity to follow His will

3) when you are facing a trial

4) when you are facing a temptation

B. Because in part, of what doing so avoid.

1. shame

2. death

C. Because in part, of what doing so gains.

1. sanctification

2. life

Take aways?

1) Be careful what you are presenting yourself to.

2) Determine that you will not risk enslavement to anything that could harm you or others.

3) Determine that you will not let stubborn independence stop you from submitting to Christ.

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 two 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