The Law Can Be Your Friend

Steve Viars September 8, 2007 Romans 7:1-13

 

- this morning I’d like to begin our time by asking you a question...

- have you ever had somebody in your life that at first seemed hard on you, or difficult---you didn’t really understand them or appreciate them, but at some point later they became your friend?...

- when I went to college I had a professor named Dr. Rembert Carter...

- He was a legend at BBC...he taught a lot of important classes but my freshman year I had him for Western Civilization...

- His PhD was from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland...and he was fantastic lecturer...

- he was also very intimidating...I don’t think it was on purpose, but when he started talking you felt like saying to yourself---I don’t know anything about anything...this man is a genius...

- he also assigned this textbook that was practically impossible to read...

- you had to carry it home from the bookstore in a wheelbarrow...

- and I came to hate that book...you could concentrate as hard as possible and read a page slowly and carefully and take as many notes as you could and you got done and said...what did I just read...

- and if it takes me that long to understand one page, it would take me years to get through one week’s reading assignment...

- but the real topper was his tests...

- he gave eraser tests...which meant they were multiple choice, and you were given a scratch off answer card...

- so you would read the questions on a separate sheet of paper, and scratch off what you thought was the correct answer...but you had to keep scratching until you found it...so every time you scratched beyond the first try, your grade was going down...

- I saw people in that class reduced to tears when taking those tests...

- I was also exposed to some guys who one day were going to be pastors use some of the most colorful language I have ever heard...

- people hated those classes...and didn’t always speak very kindly about Dr. Carter...

- but do you know what is interesting...he taught at BBC his entire career...he only retired a few years ago...

- he taught pastors and missionaries and their wives who are now serving around the world...

- and if you ask many of the graduates of BBC who their favorite professor was...of all the wonderful ones we had---often you’ll hear this...Rembert Carter...

- In fact I was just reading a graduate's testimony this week—a fellow who was ahead of me in school this week—and that’s who he mentioned...Rembert Carter...

- why?...because all that study?...it was good for us...

- those things he taught us...many of them were very important...

- and he wasn’t just concerned about how well we knew Western Civ---he knew that we were going to be teaching the Bible...and he wanted us to learn how to study...and how to think...because of the importance of communicating the Word of God...

- the point is – Rembert Carter went from being someone we feared, or disliked...to being our friend...in the sense that we benefited greatly from his influence...

- now, here’s why I raise that concept this morning...

- because God’s Word says that there is something in your life like that...

- and this concept may not make a lot of sense...yet...but that item is God’s Law...

- this morning I’d like to speak to you about how The Law Can be Your Friend...

- with that in mind would you please open your Bible to Romans chapter 7...

- that’s on page 123 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- now, while you’re turning there, let me ask you this...how many of you have ever been to Ruth Chris steak house?...have you ever been there?...

- I had seen it advertised in magazines and on signs at the airport...but last year at a conference someone bought my wife Kris and I a gift certificate fir that restaurant, so a few months ago Kris and I went there...

- that is some place...and they are known for their steaks which are absolutely delicious...

- but you have to like steak...and I’m not sure I would want to eat that way all the time, but once in a while its pretty good...

- did you know that the Bible says that some of God’s truth is like milk?...it is easy to drink and digest...even a baby could do it...

- but who want to live on just milk?...

- which is why some of God’s Word is like meat...it requires a bit more concentration...

- more focused study...

- you have to chew on it...and let it slowly digest...

- what do you think I’m about to say next?...Romans chapter 7 is like meat...there’s no question about that...

- this passage is going to require careful and focused study this morning...

- and I realize that some folks might say --- but why is God’s Word like that?...

- and one of the answers apparently is that God chooses to treat you like an adult...

- He believes we can process intricate concepts in ways that help us understand Him, and understand how to live in a way that honors Him...

- and I think most of us would say...that is a very good thing...

- this fall we’re talking about Reaching New Heights in our Ability to Grow.

- and we’re studying verse by verse through Romans 6-8, the most extended place in all the Bible dealing with the issue of progressive sanctification---specifically how a person changes and grows...

- Paul had explained in chapters 4-5 that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...

- he said in chapter 5 verse 20, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound...

- a person does not establish a relationship with God on the basis of His own works...he admits his sin and then places his faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross as his only way to be forgiven...its by grace...

- well, Paul knows there will be questions about that, and objections to it...

- so he anticipates them and answers them in advance...

- that’s why chapter 6 began with a question...are we just supposed to continue in sin so grace will increase?...

- Paul answered that by saying...of course not...

- when you trust Christ, something marvelous happens...you are united with Him...you die with Christ, you’re buried with Him...resurrected with Him...

- so a couple of weeks ago we talked about the importance of the fact that you’re not alone in your struggle—and we encouraged one another to look for ways to factor your union with Christ into specific situations you were facing...

- then Paul raises a related question at the middle of chapter 6...[READ 6:15]...

- then he goes on to explain...it’s a matter of presenting yourselves...like a soldier presenting himself to duty...

- and we are now free to present our thoughts to the Lord...and present our actions to the Lord...

- and that actually becomes habitual...we were slaves to sin, now we can actually become slaves to righteousness...

- so these twin idea of consider yourself in verse 11, and present yourself in verse 16 become critical pieces of the puzzle...

- now we’re ready to face the question – then where does that leave God’s law?...if we’re saved by grace, how does the law fit into that?...it’s a very important question, and it yields some very practical answers...

- READ 7:1-13

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three principles to help us see how God’s law should be our friend.

I. You Need to Get Beyond your Former Relationship with the Law.

- let’s think about how all of this starts...

A. Where it all started.

- it begins with the nature of man...

- many secular thinkers believe that human beings are born morally positive...or morally neutral...

- and the problems they develop later on are the result of outside forces...

- for Freud it’s the super-ego, the person’s moral code fueled by their parents and religious teachers...who insist on all sorts of standards that breed false guilt...

- so the problem is external and the solution is to free the person from these outside influences

- and when the person can act, apart from moral restraint, without feeling guilty, they are healed...

- for behaviorists...the problem is the environment...

- the person’s around the individual did not provide the right kind of rewards for doing right so the person often chose what was wrong...because it appeared more beneficial to do so...

- if you change the contingencies, you’ll change the person’s behavior...

- so again, the problem is external...

- then there’s third force psychology...

- which taught that human beings were born morally positive...

- if you would just leave them alone, they would unfold like a flower...

- that is why there was a period of time not that long ago in American education where teachers were encouraged to ignore incorrect answers on a student’s assignment because marking the answer wrong would make the person feel badly about themselves...

- and feeling good about themselves was more important than actually learning the material...

- now, when you open the pages of Scripture, the diagnosis is markedly different...

- and it is not very complimentary...

- Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

- Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

- Proverbs 22:15 - Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

- Psalm 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

- Psalm 58:3 - The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

- so the Scripture teaches from cover to cover the essential depravity of man...

- that does not mean that we are as sinful as we could possibly be...but it means, as the author of Hebrews explained, Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him...

- now, let me ask you this...does a small child know that?...before they are able to comprehend teaching from their parents---would a child know that?...of course not...

- but invariably what happens?...the law comes...

- either the law of your own conscience, or the expectations of your parents or society, but especially in this setting---the law of God---the just and holy expectations of God...and what happens?...

B.  The impact of the law to an unsaved person.

1. It has jurisdiction – v. 1, 9

 - that word means...rule, have authority over...

- the commands of God, right/wrong, in whatever form you learn them, begin to take jurisdiction...they begin to have an effect....

- now, and this is a very important place in all of this...what happens to an unregenerate human being when you hear that something is wrong?...what does verse 5 say?

2. It arouses your sinful passions – v. 5, 8

- you’ve seen that in a little child, haven’t you?...

- let’s say you’re child just starting walking...

- and so there is something on the coffee table that you don’t want them to touch---so you say “no”...

- how does your child respond?...OK, mommy, I won’t touch it...thank you for pointing that out?...

- isn’t it amazing that when you turn your head, that child will put their little hand on the coffee table, and get as close to the item as possible, and then touch it, and look right at you?...

- where did that child get that?...[develop]

- and see, its not all funny, is it?...why does the country crooner sing things like “it just feels better if I cheat”?....

3. It bore fruit leading to death – v. 5, 9-11

- now there’s the guilt and shame that comes from rebellion...

- and there’s one more step...verse 6 makes it clear...

4. You were bound to it – v. 6

- those are the habits we studied last week...

- learning God’s law became the occasion by which you wanted to sin more, but then you had to deal with the guilt, and then all of that became this endless cycle of sin, guilt, despair...and trying to change but failing...

- now, here’s the point – that relationship stinks...

- it’s not that the law is bad...but the impact of the law reveals the sin in your heart and leads to rebellious acts and terrible guilt and hopeless enslavement...

- that is what a childish relationship to the law looks like...

- let me try to illustrate that...when I learned to drive a car...I was confronted with the same thing you were...speeding laws...

- my dad used to like to say that I paved a significant portion of I-80...

- do you know why?...because I got so many speeding tickets as a college student going back and forth...there was something about those posted signs that made me want to...drive faster...

- but it wasn’t just that...I didn’t like the idea of having to drive safely...

- the point is – I had a very immature, and unproductive relationship with the law...

- and Paul is saying...that is the way it is for a person without Christ regardless of their age...

- their relationship with the law stinks...it is like being married to someone that is an abusive tyrant...[again, not the law, but the power of sin that is being revealed and stimulated by the law...]

- here’s what this great passage says...

II. You Can Die to Your Former Relationship with the Law by Being Married to Christ.

- did you see that in verse 4?...

- v. 4 – you were made to die to the law

- v. 6 – we have been released from the law, having died to that...

- it’s like this – what was the verdict in the Lee Harvey Oswald case, guilty or not guilty for assassinating President Kennedy?...what’s the answer?...neither...why?...because Jack Ruby killed him...

- and after you die, humanly speaking, you can’t be convicted of a crime...

- Paul is saying, that when a person comes to Christ...that relationship with the law is severed...you’ve died to that...

- and it no longer has to haunt you, and no longer has to stimulate you, and no longer has to torment you...

Free from the law, O happy condition!
Jesus hath bled and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.

- now every time you read words like “free from the law” please don’t think---great, now I don’t ever have to obey God...that’s certainly not the point...the idea is, that former relationship you had with the law that just stimulated your sin and made your feel guilty and enslaved you – you can get out of that...

- and if you’re in the habit of writing in your Bible, you might want to draw a line from those verses, back to chapter 6:14...in that sense, you are not under law but under grace.

[A. What does it mean to be free from the law?]

- to help us picture this, Paul even uses the illustration of marriage in verses 2-3...[this is a treatise of marriage, divorce, remarriage – it is a simple illustration]

- but the picture is of a person who is married to an absolute tyrant...who is terribly possessive, and terribly abusive...

- you messed up again...you messed up again...

- would you like to mess up some more...would you like to mess up some more...

- and then one day the tyrant dies...and she has a burial, simply out of respect...but what’s the picture---she is no longer under obligation...because there’s been a death...

- but it even gets better...

B. You can now be married to Christ.

- CCNT – So, my brothers, you also died to the law through Christ’s body, so that you might become the wife of a different man...

C. Now you can serve in newness of the Spirit.

- verse 6 – so that you may serve in newness of the Spirit.

- let me add to my illustration about driving and then we’ll make applications to how we change...

- we would all agree that my relationship to driving laws was very immature...that was very childish...

- I could have injured my sister...I could injured those other girls whose parents were trusting me to bring them home for thanksgiving...

- it was a very immature and non-productive relationship to driving laws...

- but now, I drive a lot slower, and a lot more carefully...you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t tried the changing drivers while moving thing for at least 6 months...

- why?...

- and here’s where the issue of maturity comes in...

- hopefully its not...well, because I don’t want to get caught...

- I don’t want to get a ticket...

- or I want to look good in case a church member sees me...

- hopefully it’s because I really think keeping that law is a good thing...

- in many ways that law has become my friend...

- I don’t want to hurt someone else with my car...if it happens accidentally that’s one thing but not because of my foolishness...

- and at some point it even becomes a matter of stewardship of my own body...personal safety so I can serve my family...

- so where does that leave us?...

- let’s read verse 4 again, and hopefully some of the concepts are falling into place...READ

- here’s where the passage gets us...

III. Your New Relationship With Christ Can Produce Obedient Fruitfulness.

- here’s how all of this fits into Christian growth...

- there’s a third chair...

- you started in the baby chair – sinning and not even feeling guilty about it---sinning with a high hand...

- but then the law came...in one way shape or form...

- and the impact that had on you was like being married to a tyrant...

- it stimulated sin...

- it then it immediately turned around and made you feel guilty...

- and then it enslaved you to the process...

- but in Christ, there’s been a death...and there’s been a marriage...

- and now---at least when you’re thinking clearly....

- you obey because you want to, and because Christ enables you to...

- when that starts happening to you...you’re beginning to achieve Christian maturity...

- develop – a student who is tempted to cheat on a term paper by getting one off the internet and turning it in as if your own work...

- Christian maturity isn’t...

- well, I better not do that...

- because I might get caught...

- or I guess I have to grudgingly grunt this assignment out...

- I’ll do it out of duty...

- Christian maturity says...

- the University’s policy that I shouldn’t cheat makes a lot of sense...

- it’s what going to help me be best prepared for future classes...

- it’s what’s going to prepare me for assignments on my job...

- it’s what’s going to help me develop a right kind of work ethic...

- now, what are the take aways?...

1.  What seat are you in?...

- is it possible that you’ve not gotten to seat 3 yet?  [develop the gospel]...

2. Look for specific opportunities this week to develop the maturity of liking to do the right thing...

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