Responding to Our Knowledge of God - Knowledge

Faith Church July 28, 2007 Romans 6:1-14

 

- this morning I’d like to begin our time with a quiz – some of you are parents and you have been telling your children how wonderful the educational process is...so maybe it would be good to try that out here---are you up for a quiz?...

- here’s what we’re going to do...I’d like to show you 3 clusters of pictures...and ask you what these three groupings have in common...

- you won’t have any problem seeing the commonalities within the groupings...the question is, how are the three groupings similar to each other...are you ready?

- now you might say...this is going to be easy...we’ll see...

- what is the similarity between those pictures and these?...

- I should probably say that if you are listening to this on tape---we just saw several pictures of people who were being married...

- now how are you doing...there is a very important common thread between the first set of pictures and the second one...

- and for the tape folks – those were pictures of [soldiers]...

- now, are you ready for the third grouping?...this will tie it together...

- who thinks they know what one word ties those three pictures together?...

- the answer is the word “union”...

- the couples were being “united in holy matrimony”...on the day they were married they became a union...

- those weren’t just any soldiers...they were union soldiers...and they were fighting to preserve the union of our country during the Civil War...

- and those plumbing fittings....anybody who has done plumbing work knows how valuable those things are...when you need to bring two pieces to pipe together, especially if it is an awkward place or you know you might have to do work there later...

- there’s nothing better than a plumbing union...

- now, you might say, what in the world does that have to do with Christianity?...

- ah hah...here’s the answer...a whole lot more than some of us sometimes realize...

- and the truth of the matter is...some of us are not always growing at the rate that God desires...because it would appear we are not receiving maximum benefit from the doctrine of Our Union with Christ...

- today, we hope to do something about that...

- with those pictures in mind, would you please open your Bible to Romans chapter 6?...

- page 122 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- this morning we’re beginning a brand new series entitled Reaching New Heights in our Ability to Grow...

- we plan to work verse by verse through the most extended passage in all the Bible on specifically how a follower of Christ changes, and grows, and over time becomes more and more of what God wants us to be...

- and part of the good news is...God’s Word is very precise about this...the Lord never tells us what we should be without giving us specific steps to get there...that is something for which we should be very thankful...

- another piece of good news is that verses like this will really stretch us...these aren’t pat answers...these aren’t ideas other human beings would have come up with on their own...this is clearly the Word of God...on purpose it is  intended to stretch you...

- now we can/should ask and expect the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply His Word---that’s our only hope...so understanding this is achievable, if every one of us does our work...[but its like any topic---the amount of value you place on the outcome---in this case becoming more pleasing God will directly impact the amount of effort you are willing to put into the process...]

- now, why is this important church wide?...this is part of our annual theme of Reaching New Heights...that’s what we’ve been focusing on all year in various ways...

- we understand that if we are serious about accomplishing all that we believe God wants us to accomplish...then we all have to get to a better place...

- and it doesn’t really matter if you’re just investigating what it means to be a Christian...

- or if you just trusted Christ but you’ve brought a ton of baggage into the journey...

- or maybe you’ve been at this a while and you’re seeing some progress...

- or maybe you’ve even been at this a long, long time and you have a significant amount of growth and service under your belt...

- regardless...I’m sure the Lord would say...the process needs to continue...praise Him for what’s right, and get busy working on the next area that’s needs work...so that we all are Reaching New Heights...

- now, I mentioned that we are going to be working through a section of the book of Romans...

- if you have studied the Bible before, you know that the book of Romans is by far the most theologically comprehensive book in the NT...

- Paul was writing to a group of persons who were ready/willing to receive a fairly significant dose of truth...and if God is the author, that is a very good thing...

- I realize that some here have not studied this book before...here’s a simple outline from Warren Wiersbe that might help us set these verses in their context...

Outline of the Book of Romans

I. Sin – Righteousness Demanded – 1:18-3:20

II. Salvation – Righteousness Declared – 3:21-5:21

III. Sanctification – Righteousness Defended – 6:1 – 8:39

IV. Sovereignty – Righteousness Declined – 9:1 – 11:36

V. Service – Righteousness Demonstrated – 12:1 – 15:7

- the book begins by emphasizing the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man...

- and the first two and a half chapters are very stark...as the apostle Paul explains that human beings in and of themselves cannot measure up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness on their own...

- because God is holy, sin separates us from Him...

- he doesn’t grade on a curve, He doesn’t look the other way...

- and it is a universal problem...that is why he says in chapter 3, verse 23...for all have sinned...

- and you walk away from that discussion saying...we’ve got a big problem...because if a righteous God can only have a relation with righteous creatures...then that leaves us out...

- now you might expect to find Paul in the next chapters saying things like...and you better get busy trying to earn righteousness on your own...

- you better try to be real good and maybe that will pay for your sin on your own...[that is the way many people think they can be reconciled to God...]

- but what you find instead in chapters 3-5 is Paul’s introduction of an entirely new concept in the discussion...the principle of grace...

- not ignoring the problem, not looking the other way...but providing a payment, for free, from His own hand...

- Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:20 - ...but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

- in other words, every person has to make a decision...will they admit their need, and then ask for something / accept something from God that they cannot earn on their own...forgiveness based on the finished work of Christ on the cross alone...

- now, many people object to that notion...especially if they have been trying to live a godly life on their own...earning their way to God by their efforts...

- they would respond to what we just said with something like...but that just gives people a license to sin...that is not going to produce practical righteousness...

- here’s what that fails to understand...the significance of what happens when a person truly believes in Christ...

- because at that moment...there’s a union...

- and its more powerful than the union at a wedding, or between various states in a country, or certainly of bringing two pipes together so the water can freely flow...

- we’re talking about the beauty, and the significance, and the power of your union with Christ...

- and here’s the point today...when you think about all the ways God wants you to grow...

- when you think about the next way God wants you to grow...

- when you think about the most significant way God wants you to grow...

- please remember this and factor it into the process...You are Not Alone in Your Struggle...you’ve been united with Christ...

- now let’s dig into these verses...

- read verse 1...

- see, there’s the objection to grace...

- that’s why so many religious systems are steeped in legalism, and endless rules, and focus on external standards and performance...

- it’s sarcasm – maybe should continue in sin so that grace should abound...and what does Paul say?...

- read verse 2-3...

- now, there’s the beginning of our discussion...

- let me just stop us there for a moment...because Paul uses the picture of baptism...

- that is not water baptism...we refer to this as spirit baptism...it is what happens to a person as soon as they trust Christ...

- water baptism is a physical picture of what these verses are speaking about...but the emphasis here is what happens to every person as soon as they trust Christ...

- now, let’s read the rest of the passage --- and I understand that for some of you, this is all brand new...just strap in and hang on...I promise you that even if this is the first time you have ever read the Bible...you can get this...and you can benefit from it...

- now, I realize that for some of you, a fair amount of that went right on by...that’s OK...because here’s what we’re going to spend the rest of our time doing...we want to focus on the main point...and how that should help you, and impact you as you try to grow in Him...

- here’s what Paul just told us---if there is a definite time in your life where you have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord...you have been united with Him...something very significant happened to you...and I would like us to spend our remaining moments studying...3 steps to keep you from simply trying to grow on your own.

I. Understand the Nature of Your Union with Christ.

- when we talk about growing and changing, we’re talking about progressive sanctification...

- and I realize that you might say...PV, it is hard to keep all these words straight...Let’s...

A. Sorting out key theological terms.

  • Regeneration= The infusion of divine life into a dead soul; the work of the Holy Spirit in creating a new life in the sinful person who repents and comes to believe in Christ.
  • Conversion= The action of a person in turning to Christ.  It includes repentance (renunciation of sin) and faith (acceptance of Christ).
  • Justification= God’s judicial act of declaring us righteous in His sight at salvation.
  • Sanctification= General meaning: “set apart from sin to God”
  • Positional– the divine act of making the believer actually holy, that is bringing the person’s moral condition into conformity with the legal status established in justification.  This is a ONE-TIME event at salvation.
  • Progressive– the process of a person conforming to the image of Jesus Christ by putting off sinful habits of thinking and action and replacing them with new habits of obedience to the Word of God.  This is a CONTINUAL practice throughout one’s Christ life.
  • Glorification= the final step in the process of sanctification, sometimes called Prospective Sanctification; it means completion of sanctification and removal of spiritual defects.  This occurs at DEATH or the COMING OF CHRIST when we will achieve total Christlikeness.

 

- the confusion often comes in at one of two points...is this something that happens at a point in time, or is it a process?

- and, is this something that God does, or is it something that God enables you to do?

- here’s a simple chart adapted from a book called The Theology of Christian Counseling to help us sort that out:

Doctrine

Act

Process

God Alone Does It

God Enables Man to Do It

Regeneration

ü

 

ü

 

Conversion:

Repent & Faith

ü

 

 

ü

Justification

ü

 

ü

 

Positional Sanctification

ü

 

ü

 

Progressive Sanctification

 

ü

 

ü

Glorification

ü

 

ü

 

- here’s the point – the Bible will be very frustrating to you unless you learn to distinguish positional truth from practical truth...

- positional truth – that’s what occurred on the account books of heaven the moment you trusted Christ...it was God’s work alone...

- practical truth – here’s what you need to be doing in your daily life because of what’s happened to you...you are cooperating with the Spirit of God...

- Christians often make one of two mistakes when it comes to the matter of growing...

- they either try to grow in their practical life without understanding or benefiting from their position [as if God saves them and now they’re on their own...]

- or they’re satisfied with their position and they never do anything about it practically...

- the first approach is frustrating...the second approach is stifling...neither one produces the fruit God desires or intends...

- so where does your union with Christ fit into this?...positional sanctification...

- Paul is saying...believer, do you understand that the moment you admitted your need and you placed your faith and trust in Christ...you became united with Him?...

- we can’t overstate....

B. The beauty and significance of this picture.

1. You are “in Christ”.

- cf. verse 11 - “in Christ Jesus”– we read that little phrase throughout Scripture...

2. Christ is “in you”.

- Colossians 1:27 - to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

3. You are secure in Him

- John 10:27-30 - My sheep...I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 

4. You are sealed in Him.

- Ephesians 1:13 – You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

5. You are identified in Him.

- we said earlier that this is a picture of water baptism...regrettably that does not have the power it does in many cultures...where, when a person is willing to be baptized in water, signifying what has already occurred inwardly in their hearts...he/she might have to pay a tremendous price...but they want to be identified with Him...they are proclaiming the union...its like a wedding announcement...

- Romans 6:3 – all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus...

6. You are equipped in Him.

Ephesians 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

- here’s the point...failing to understand, and factor in the significance of your union with Christ as you seek to grow and change each day will significantly slow you down...

- here’s what it’s like...even though our family only lives 2 miles from the church, we are on the Mulberry phone exchange...and the only way we could have internet service was through dial up...which is so slow I don’t even try to check my church e-mails from home or do any work from home...it has always been so slow...

- a new company just installed a new tower...and they offered service that they guaranteed would be at least 50 times faster than dial-up...

- we checked it out...had it installed...and guess what...it is incredibly fast...

- just trying to change using your own effort...that’s like dial up...

- but factoring in the significance of your union with Christ to the areas where you need to change...that’s like high speed...

- now, if you’re tracking with this, the next question is...well, what does it look like...let’s say it this way...

II. Rejoice in the Benefits of Your Union with Christ.

- this is incredibly good news...

- and by the way...al of this assumes that you’ve had a definite time where you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord...if you haven’t, we would urge you to do that today...

- but if you have...think of the benefits...

A. You were united with Him in his death.

- did you notice how many times that was emphasized?...

  • You died to sin – verse 2.
  • You were baptized into His death – verse 3.
  • You were buried with Him through baptism into death – verse4.
  • You have become united with Him in the likeness of His death – verse 5.
  • Your old self was crucified – verse 6.
  • You died with Christ – verse 8.

- so, what does that mean?...if you’re benefiting from this truth...

1.  You have a completely different view of sin’s delight.

- you no longer view life’s events through the lens of what you alone think, want, plan, can do....

- it’s always what you/Christ think, want, plan, can do...

- so for example....you’re watching TV...do you ever do that?...

- are you factoring your union with Christ into those choices?...

- [do you see where this topic takes us?...]

- why in the world would ever be laugh at, be entertained by, spend time things for which Jesus Christ died?....

- its not you watching TV...it’s you, in Christ, watching TV....

- its you/Him in every conversation...

- it’s not just you speaking....[not if you’re benefiting from positional truth the way you should]...words that might have been delightful to you before, or habitual to you before...you would never say that again....there’s been a death....

- I’m asking you this morning...do you factor your union with Christ into your daily walk...[thoughts, desires, words, actions, plans, strategies, goals...]

2. You have a completely different view of sin’s power.

- if you are united with Christ and you have died to sin positionally, that means there is nothing about you that is unlike Christ that you cannot change...

- people who walk around saying I can’t...need to reflect more on the Person to whom they’re united...

- people who want to say things like...well, you can’t teach a old dog new tricks...where does Jesus fit into that?

- or my situation is hopeless because of my past....or, my problems are everybody else’s fault...what happened to the power of the union?...

- what’s the other side of that?...

B. You were united with Him in his resurrection.

- we see that too all over this passage...

1. So that we too might walk in the newness of life – verse 4.

2. We shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection – verse 5.

3. We shall also live with Him – verse 8.

4. The life that Christ lives, He lives to God – verse 10.

- that ought to produce a quickness and an enthusiasm about putting off sinful habits because of a belief that there is a much better way to live...

- see, some people hang on to their sinful habits because they’re not convinced there’s a better alternative...

- maybe this worry is wrong...but at least it feels like home...I’m not sure there’s a better way, at least not for me...

- I know I shouldn’t be sinfully angry so often but I don’t see a viable alternative...

- I know our marriage is bad...but that’s what we’re stuck with...

- friends, if I stood up here this morning and said...I don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ any more...how long would it be before the congregation would turn me upside down and stuff me in the dumpster?...

- well, does our enthusiasm about growing demonstrate that we have been united with Christ in His resurrection...and therefore the new life that He offers is worth pursuing with nearly reckless abandon?...

[develop – death isn’t nearly as bad if you’re really convinced that there is something better on the other side...cf. the situations with Barb Drenth, Charlie Ford, Lester Wilkerson – their deaths were hard...but what made it much easier to handle was the firm belief that they were going to wake up in a better place...

- followers of Christ can embrace putting sinful habits to death with passion if they truly believe that the next place is far better...

- cf. telling counselees – please trust Christ as savior, begin growing biblically, understand/benefit from who you are in Christ – you won’t recognize yourself by Thanksgiving...]

- now, I realize that this material is pretty meaty, just because of the nature of the passage...let’s try to make sure it is practical as possible...

III. Act on the Implications of Your Union with Christ.

A. Let these truths impact what you do with your mind.

- a key summary concept here is found in verse 11- Romans 6:11 - Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

- that is an accounting term...[develop]

- Professional golfer Bobby Jones used to say – Competitive golf is played mainly on a 5 inch course...the distance between your ears.

- in many ways that is true of biblical Christianity...

- this isn’t just a bunch of rules...

- it is a personal relationship with Christ...and you are called upon to bring the implications of that relationship into your daily walk...

- what you tell yourself will make a huge difference...

- [not the power of positive thinking...the power of biblical thinking...]

B. Let’s these truths impact what you do with your body.

Romans 6:13 - and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Conclusion – Just because it’s true doesn’t mean you are benefiting from it – cf. first time printing labels from the computer for a mass mailing, the computer could have sorted the labels but it didn’t, because I didn’t know it could.

Faith Church