The Power of Authenticity

Steve Viars September 15, 2007 Romans 7:14-25

 

- regardless of who your favorite professional football team is, or whether you even like football...I think most of us would say that Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts is a tremendous example of how a Christian man can have a marvelous testimony in the profession to which he’s been called...

- Trey Garner, our Children’s pastor, recently read Tony Dungy’s best selling book Quiet Strength, and pointed out to me several ways that Dungy’s Christianity was apparent...

- in fact Trey’s words were, his testimony is so crystal clear in the book that we could hire him on our pastoral staff...[I assume that was a compliment of Dungy and not a criticism of our pastors...]

- but to have a person who led his team to win the super bowl last year, was named the Coach of the Year in the NFL...and then use that platform to write a bestselling book emphasizing how his relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of everything he does is a tremendous gift from the Lord...

- one of the characteristics that stands out about this book is Dungy’s authenticity...

- he has no trouble admitting the ways he’s struggled, and continues to struggle...

- at one place he speaks about his temper...

- As I alluded to earlier, I had always had a problem with my temper.  I often earned technical fouls in my high school basketball games and was known to lose my cool in football games as well.  In high school and college, I was a perfectionist, usually riding my teammates rather than encouraging them.

- Venting,” I called it.

- “Dumb,” my dad called it.

- Our exchanges usually ran something like this:

- “Did you change the referee’s call?”

- “No.”

- “Did it make the situation better?”

- “No, but I felt better, and then I could focus.”

- “Well, you might have felt better faster if you were thinking about the next play instead of taking three or four or ten plays to ‘vent.’  You waste a lot of emotion and energy in venting or in worrying about an injustice or something you can’t do anything about.”

That was excellent advice from my dad, but I wasn’t ready to listen.  It wasn’t until those Steelers invited me into their Bible study that I really began to change.  There I was exposed to guys I respected who were constantly in God’s Word—always praying and reading their Bibles together.  These professional players were not the weak and the meek; they were some of the biggest, toughest guys I had ever met.  And yet they were drawing their strength and purpose form God.

- later in the book he was talking about a game with the Giants...

- “The replay system bit us a third time that afternoon.  With just over a minute to go, we were attempting to drive for either a tying field goal or a game-winning touchdown.  Our wide receiver Karl Williams made a twenty-eight-yard reception out across the fifty yard line.  However, the replay official decided to review the call, and the completion was overturned, which ended our opportunity to score.  Someone from the league office called us the next day to tell us that, in fact, it had been a reception.  But by then the damage was done; we were 0-1.

- Following the game, I made some ill-advised comments to the media, criticizing the officiating and the replay system, and Commissioner Tagliabue fined me ten thousand dollars.  I know I deserved the penalty for having spoken out of my frustration.  When I saw the deduction from my paycheck, I could picture my dad’s smile and hear him saying, ‘Tony, I hope venting at least made you feel better at the time.’”

- the point is, even a guy who’s accomplished so much still has no trouble talking about the ways he needs to get better...

- and the amazing thing is...if you’ve ever watched Coach Dungy on the sidelines...he seems to have a better handle on his anger than many of us...

- when I read this, I thought...if Tony Dungy has an anger problem watching the game on the sidelines, he ought to see the way I behave watching the game on TV...

- here’s the point...there’s power in admitting that we still struggle...its refreshing to watch someone react to problems, not by blaming others or being defensive...but simply to be genuine and real about ones failures...

- that’s why this morning we’re going to place our focus on “The Power of Authenticity”...

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Romans chapter 7...page 123 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- this fall we’re working our way through 3 of the most important chapters in the Bible on progressive sanctification—how a person changes and grows...

- we’re calling this – Reaching New Heights in our Ability to Grow.

- and that’s what we’re trying to do as a church family this fall...

- we recognize that if we are going to accomplish all we believe God wants us to accomplish at this period in our church’s history...it is going to require everybody on the team getting to a better place in our walk with the Lord, in our commitment to personal holiness, and in our developing relationships with the people around us...

- at this point we’re right in the middle of this extended passage...

‑ last week we looked at the first half of Romans 7 which explains the relationship between grace and the law...we titled those verses...The Law Can Be Your Friend...

- now, persons unfamiliar with the Bible might say...well, that is because I try to keep the law, I try to be a good person, and that’s how I earn my way to heaven...by my own works, by my own ability to keep the law...after all, I’m a pretty good person...etc...

- of course if you study a passage like Romans 7, you see that’s not the point at all...

- the Bible describes what we laid out last week as 3 chairs...

- the first chair is the way each of us is born...in sin...

- it is not a very pleasant diagnosis...but if the Bible is our source of truth...there is no question that that is God’s view of the matter...

- but then the law comes...either by ones own conscience, or by the expectations of ones parents or society, and eventually the law of God either formally or informally...

- and then the person is in the second chair...

- which is because the law was never intended to save a person...it was never intended to justify them...

- the law is your schoolmaster...it is intended to reveal something about your essential nature...

- so what inevitably happens?

- the law starts arousing all sorts of evil impulses...as soon as your told something is wrong, you want to do it more...the most powerful temptation is the item that’s forbidden...

- then it turns around and accuses you, and makes you feel guilty...

- then it enslaves you...so there’s vicious cycle of temptation, and failure, and guilt, and enslavement...

- its not that the law is intrinsically bad...it’s that your relationship with it stinks...

- you have to find a way to get out of that chair...

- and the only way to do that is to kill the tyrannical relationship and choose to be married to another person...someone qualified to pay for your sin, and free you from your enslavement...and lead you to a relationship to His Word where you actually find it a delight not a drudgery...so, in all of those ways and for all those reasons, the law can be your friend...

- so we encouraged every person here to evaluate whether they had ever truly let the law and their inability to keep it on their own motivate them to make a personal decision to trust Christ as savior and Lord...[develop those who made that decision this week...]

- but for the many people here who have already decided to trust Christ, we encouraged you to be developing a more mature view of and relationship to the law...where you are serving God in, as Paul says in verse 6, the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter...

- and when you get to the place where you see the value of God’s commands...and you view obedience not in a grudging way but a delightful and desirable one...that is a sign of maturity...in that sense, the law is your friend not only because it pointed you to the Savior but because now it is helping you joyfully follow Him as your Lord...

- now, I received a delightful e-mail last Sunday afternoon from someone who was here for the first time last Sunday and this person said...

- At the end, you were talking about the "3 chairs" that we may be in. When you spoke about the second chair, you gave the example of someone waking up feeling guilty because they made the same mistake for the millionth time. You then said that if that is the situation in our lives, we may want to take a closer look at our relationship with the law and God. It seemed to me as if you were saying that if we mess up in our lives with a recurring struggle, we may not be saved. That concept seems off to me, since I know that sin is something believers will and do struggle with. I left the church with the feeling that I shouldn't have any struggles with obeying the law now that I'm a believer, and it was a rather hopeless feeling. However, I do not think that that is the point you were trying to convey, but if you could clear that up for me, I would really appreciate it.

- I’d like to say a couple of things about that...

- I love e-mails like that...because it shows that people are really listening and trying to understand what God’s Word says...

- it also shows that they’re not just going to take my Word for it as if the Christina life is like being spoon fed all the time, but that everybody has a responsibility to listen and then search the Scriptures...I can’t tell you how delightful that is to a pastor...

- the answer to the question is...if a person continues to sin over and over and has gotten to the place that they don’t even care---their conscience is seared---it could be a sign that they have never genuinely trusted Christ...

- However, that dynamic could also suggest that they are now ready for the next sermon...because Paul anticipates that exact response...and discusses it from the perspective of his personal walk with the Lord in the rest of the chapter---read 7:14-25

- this morning we’re talking about The Power of Authenticity, and in the time we have remaining, from our verses I’d like us to see Three issues that must be addresses to make progress in our Spiritual Growth.

- and just to give you an idea of where all of this is going, let me just lay out the main points now...we’re going to talk about...

I. The “Who?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

II. The “Why?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

III. The “Now What?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

I. The “Who?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

 - one of the decisions that has to be made about this passage is, in these verses is Paul describing the experience of a believer in Christ?...is this person saved?...is this regenerate?...

A. Paul is speaking as a Christian man.

- in other words, this dynamic is normal for a follower of Christ---it is to be expected...

- now, you might say, how can we be sure of that?...

1. We know this because of the tense of the verbs.

- we don’t usually get this technical grammatically, but in this case it is important...

- please scan over verses 7-13...

- in those verses, Paul was using the past tense...

- he was describing his decision to trust Christ as Savior and Lord...

- that was an event that already occurred...

- in the terminology we used last week...that’s how he got out of the 2nd chair and into the 3rd one...

- that decision is summarized in verse 4 [read...]

- but what happens to the tenses of the verbs beginning in verse 14?...

- the argument clearly switches to present tense...

- cf. v. 15 – for what I am doing, I do not understand [even, at times, now...]

- so Paul is speaking as a Christian man...

2. We know this because of the language of the text.

- Paul is saying things here that only a believer would say...

- v. 16 – I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.

- v. 18 – the willing is present in me

- v. 19 – the good that I want

- v. 21 -- ...me, the one who wants to do good

- v. 22 – For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man

- v. 23 – waging war against the law of my mind

- v. 25 – Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord

- v. 25 – on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God...

- the point is, in addition to the issue of the tense of the verbs, even the language itself is the language of a redeemed man...

- now please also note this...

C. Paul is speaking as a mature, yet struggling man.

- spiritual authenticity is honest about the significance of the struggle...and its all over this text, isn’t it?

1.  ‘I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (v. 14).

2.  “That which I am doing, I do not understand” (v. 15a).

3.  “I am not practicing what I would like to do” (v. 15b).

4.  “I am doing the very thing I hate” (v. 15c).

5.  “I do the very thing I do not wish to do” (v. 16).

6.  “Sin . . . indwells me” (v. 17).

7.  “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (v. 18a).

8.  “The wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (v. 18b).

9.  “The good that I wish, I do not do” (v. 19a).

10.  “I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (v. 19b).

11.  “Sin . . . indwells me” (v. 20).

12.  “Evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good” (v. 21).

13.  I am a “prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23).

14.  “Wretched man that I am!”

15.  “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (v. 24)

- the reason this passage gives so many people fits is because they cannot envision a Christian life where on the one hand they have taken tremendous steps of growth, but on the other they still find themselves struggling, and sometimes significantly so...

- so the position that some people have taken on this text is that either Paul was speaking as an unsaved man, or as a “spiritually immature” [carnal man]...because they cannot possibly envision a godly person continuing to struggle like this...

- I think that we would say that the exact opposite is the case...

- it’s when you stop struggling that you should really be concerned...because that is a sign that you’ve stopped growing...

- and that is true of many Bible characters...

cf. The prophet Isaiah – Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

cf. The apostle Peter - Luke 5:8 —But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

cf. The Apostle John – Revelation 1:17 - And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

cf. Moses – Exodus 3:6 - He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

- those are utterances of authenticity...

- so the “who?’ of the struggle is the apostle Paul, one of the most spiritually mature men in all of Scripture...and by implication...people like you and me even after we’ve trusted Christ...

- now if you’re tracking with all of this, you might say...well then where does that leave the third chair picture?...perhaps we need to adjust it...

- after you trust Christ as savior and Lord...perhaps the next chair is more like a couch...a really long one...

- because as Christ frees you from the power of sin...

- and gives you the Spirit which empowers you to begin obeying His law and actually seeing the benefit of doing so...

- what happens...[you progress further down the couch...you’re growing spiritually...

- but the closer you grow to the Lord...the better you see you come to know Him...

- but the better you come to know Him...the more clearly you see yourself and the new areas in which you struggle...

- and it is a constant progression...your spiritual growth...your seeing the Lord’s character more fully...your seeing the ways you need to grow next more clearly than before...and then the process starts all over again...

- there is an authenticity and genuineness that is necessary to continue the process of becoming what God wants us to be...

- and that doesn’t mean you’re struggling with the same things you’ve always struggled with...but it does mean this...the struggle is never over in this life...

- please don’t ever be concerned that you feel like you’re living in the second half of Romans 7...be concerned when you’re not...

II. The “Why?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

- Paul explains the spiritual dynamics of what’s occurring...please remember this...

A. There is a significant difference between being freed from sin’s power, and being freed from sin’s presence.

- when you trust Christ as Savior and Lord...you no longer are enslaved to sin---the Scripture is clear about that...but that doesn’t mean that sin is gone, it just means that your ability to overcome it, to change is entirely different...

- please lock onto that phrase in...

- v. 17 – sin that is dwelling in me.

- what that means is...

B. Every believer still has “sin that dwells within me”.

- and you see that emphasis all through the text...

- sometimes this is referred to in Scripture as your flesh...not your physical body...but all of the habits of the inner and outer man that you bring into the Christian life...and even at those times when you are not thinking correctly as a Christian, habits you add to the heap even after you’ve come to know the Lord...

- so you’ve still got a fight on your hands, but in the power of Christ now it’s winnable...

- now, you might say, why didn’t God just design the process in a way that as soon as we trusted Christ, we were entirely delivered not just from the power of sin but from its presence?....why didn’t He make us Polaroid Christians? [explain]...

- apparently the answer is...because He didn’t want to...or perhaps better, because it was not in our best interests to...because there is value in the struggle...do you believe that?...

- it puts us in a position to be drawn closer to Him as we struggle...

- it keeps us humble when we’re thinking correctly...

- it helps us relate better to others who are struggling but may not be as far along in the fight...

- every believer still has “sin that dwells within me”...

- now you may have noticed that Paul almost impersonalizes the struggle...

- he says things like “it’s not me, but the principle of sin inside of him...”

- did you notice that?

- Romans 7:17 – So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

- Romans 7:20 - But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

- Romans 7:23 – but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

- Romans 7:24 - Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

- now you might say...I agree with Paul...it’s not my fault...some alien has taken over my body...

- that is not what Paul is saying...he is not impersonalizing the struggle in the sense that he is fighting something for which he is not responsible...

- that’s why you see these kinds of verses surrounded by heavy doses of personal pronouns...

- in fact the word “I” [1st person singular] appears 46 times in this passage...

- so please think of it this way...

C. There is a significant difference between “it’s not me” and “it’s not me when I’m thinking correctly”.

- see, here’s the point...you’re in the third chair...which we’ve now decided is a couch because it’s a process...

- and you’re free from the power of sin and you’re obeying God’s Word and you’re moving forward...

- but then a time of temptation comes...and you’re not ready...for a variety of reasons...

- and then you choose to take your eyes off the Lord...

- and you choose to make something else the object of your desire...

- and you choose to begin thinking thoughts that displease God...and saying words that displease God...

- and though you didn’t have to---you had a choice now---but you chose poorly in that particular situation...

- and those old habits kicked back in...and it was amazing how quickly it happened....

- and what you were wanting, thinking, saying, doing...was so inconsistent with your new life in Christ that it wasn’t even you...not the real you...not the person you want to become when you have your head on straight...

- see, Paul is not saying---that wasn’t me – he’s saying, that’s not the me I want to be...

- that’s not the me I ought to be...that’s not the me when I’m moving the right direction...

- that’s the me when I slip back into habits that I really want to kick...

- so here’s the bottom line...the difference in God’s children is not between those who struggle and those who don’t...

- the difference is between those who admit it and those who don’t...

- and the reason that is emphasized so heavily in this passage is because this is a key aspect of Christian growth...honesty, genuineness, authenticity...

III. The “Now What?” of the Spiritual Struggle.

- here’s the question I’d like to pose to you today...

- are you aware of, and involved in the ongoing struggle to change and do you relate to God and other people about the significance of the struggle?...

- in other words, is Paul’s story your story?...

- what does that authenticity look like?...

A. Be quicker to admit you sin and slower to accuse others.

- cf. Proverbs 28:13, I John 1:9, Matthew 7:3

- when is the last time your words sounded like Paul’s?

B. Avoid perfectionism in your treatment and expectation of others.

- “but the other people in my life fail...”...

- that should not come as any surprise at all...

- and its not that we excuse that, or sweep it under the rug...but we can be very harsh and exacting with the people around us...

C. Avoid perfectionism in yourself.

- some people live in this constant state of agitation as if they sometimes have to be perfect, or at least appear perfect to the people around them?...

- I have to have the perfect _____ [you fill in the blank]....

- house, car, wardrobe, family, marriage, past, extended family...

- why?...Paul didn’t...

- Philippians 3:8-10 - More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

- what that means is...

D. Take the energy used to blame, run, hide, and blame-shift and channel it into pursuing Christ.

E. Make the gospel not something you believed a long time ago, or something that will some day get you to heaven, but something you live every day.

F. Develop relationships of authenticity and accountability.

G. Guard time for the spiritual disciplines.

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