23 October 2016
-- turn in Bibles to Romans 7:14-20
Romans 7:14-20New International Version (NIV)
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
-- for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been channeling my inner Sesame Street -- I imagine all of you watched Sesame Street as a kid, and remember how ever episode they would pick a letter and then focus the entire show on that letter and words that began with that letter?
-- I don’t know if you realized it or not, but we’ve been doing something similar over the past couple of weeks -- we started with the letter “C” -- and looked at the life of King Solomon and The Three C’s of Spiritual Defeat -- Complacency, Compromise, and Corruption -- which were overcome by the C of the Cross
-- last week, we talked about the real “F” word -- forgiveness -- and what true biblical forgiveness is, what it should look like in our lives, and why we must express forgiveness in our lives to become who God has called us to be
-- this week, we’re looking at the letter “S” -- and we’re going to be focusing on three words that begin with that letter -- Sin, Salvation, and Sanctification
-- as much as I hate to, we must begin our discussion this morning with the reality of sin
-- as we are all too painfully aware, our lives have been molded and shaped and formed through the ubiquitous presence of sin -- because of Adam and Eve -- because of The Fall in the Garden of Eden -- that distinct moment in time when Adam and Eve gave into sin and disobeyed God by eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil -- we have all become sinners -- born into sin -- who live out sin-filled days on this earth
-- contrary to popular opinion, we are not sinners because we sin -- but, we sin because we are sinners -- this is who we are -- this is the doctrine of original sin -- we are born with an inherent sin nature because we are born in Adam -- it is part of us -- there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from this sin nature, and it causes us to do sinful acts -- we simply cannot help ourselves
-- this original sin has tainted our lives from the very beginning -- we are defined by our sin -- sin characterizes who we are and what we do and who we will become -- sin and the fall resulted in a curse on us and on God’s creation, and the shadow of sin touches every part of Creation
-- so what do we mean by the word “sin?” -- “sin is any action, deed, or thought that falls short of God’s perfect character” [http://www.xenos.org/essays/five-views-sanctification]
-- and there’s not a person in here, nor a person that has ever lived -- apart from Jesus Christ Himself -- who has not sinned and done what is wrong in God’s eyes -- there’s not a person in here, nor a person who has ever lived, who hasn’t fallen short of the glory of God -- of God’s perfect character
-- look at what Paul says here in this passage as he expounds in the Book of Romans on the Law and the reality of sin in our lives exposed by the Law
-- verse 14
Romans 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
-- because of original sin, we have been born into slavery to sin -- it defines who we are -- it defines what we do -- we sin because we have this sin nature within us
-- but, as AA and the other twelve step programs point out, you cannot be healed until you first admit who you are -- so God gave us the Law to demonstrate the extent of our sinfulness -- the Law not only shows us what God demands of us, but our failure to keep the Law reveals our sin and our need for a Savior
-- look at verse 15
Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
-- this sin is within us -- it is part of us -- there is nothing we can do about it -- like Paul, even when we try to do good, we find that we can’t -- even when we try to stop sinning, we find ourselves giving in time and time again to temptation and sin
-- it is because we have this sin living inside of us -- the sinful nature Paul speaks of here in verse 18
-- we can have the desire to do good -- we can have the desire to follow the Law and to do what God commands -- but we are powerless to carry it out
-- the sin within -- the sin we are slaves to -- we are bound to -- keeps us from doing what God wants us to do -- it keeps us from being who God created us to be
-- our sin has condemned us -- as the Bible says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin are death” -- this is what we have earned in our lives because of our sin -- we have earned condemnation -- we have earned separation from God -- we have earned an eternity in Hell
-- but the reality of sin leads us to the good news of Jesus Christ and to the promise inherent in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”
-- the promise of John 3:16 ushers in the good news of our next “S” word -- Salvation
-- salvation literally means “to be saved” -- the word that is translated as “salvation” in our Bibles “stems from the Greek word “sozo,” meaning to save from peril, injury, or suffering.” [http://truthsaves.org/articles/salvation-vs-sanctification/]
-- in the context of the Scriptures, salvation refers to Christ’s atoning death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins -- Christ came to take our place -- as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, He who knew no sin became sin for us and took our place on the cross -- suffering and dying and paying the penalty of sin that we owed so that we might be saved from the wrath of God and actually become the righteousness of God
-- another term we use to describe this act of Christ on our behalf is justification -- “just as if I never sinned” -- the restoration of our original being before God -- we term this as “positional holiness”
-- because of Christ, we are set apart positionally in the eyes of God as holy and righteous -- without sin or blemish -- not because of anything we have done -- not because of who we are -- but because of Christ’s imputed righteousness -- Christ’s righteousness covering us and removing our sins
-- in a very real sense, there are three components to the salvation that comes through Christ [http://truthsaves.org/articles/salvation-vs-sanctification/]:
-- as we have already talked about, salvation delivers us from the penalty of sin -- the price has been paid -- Jesus took our place on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin with His own body and blood
-- secondly, there is salvation from the power of sin
-- in the passage from Romans 7, Paul lamented that he could not do what he desired to do -- when he desired to do good -- when he desired to follow the Law and obey the commands of God -- he found himself unable to do so because of the power of sin in his life that kept him in bondage
-- but Christ has destroyed the power of sin in our lives -- He has broken the chains of slavery and freed us from the grasp of sin -- we have been saved from the power of sin and can now choose to live lives in obedience to God
-- finally, Christ’s death on the cross provided salvation from the presence of sin -- even though we are saved -- even though we when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and put our faith and trust in His atoning death on the cross -- even though the power of sin has been broken in our lives -- we still live with the reality of sin in this world -- we still live in a fallen state, surrounded by sin and the consequences of sin
-- but the Bible promises that we will be eventually saved from even the presence of sin -- this is our hope in Christ -- this is our future state in eternity when we will live with God in heaven forever -- a place where there will be no more sin -- no more shadow -- but God’s light will shine and there will be no more sin and no more darkness
-- but we cannot discuss salvation without talking about the third “S” word for today -- Sanctification
-- turn over to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits[a] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[b] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
-- Paul writes here to the Thessalonians that we have been chosen to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit -- what does that mean? -- what is sanctification?
-- sanctification literally means, “to be set apart, to be separated for a purpose” -- in the case of the Bible, to be sanctified means we have been set apart and separated from sin and from this world and separated to God and to holiness and righteousness -- “sanctification is the process of being set apart and conformed to the image of Christ” [https://carm.org/justification-and-sanctification]
-- salvation works hand-in-hand with sanctification to form us into the new creation Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
-- when we are saved, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit immediately comes to indwell us -- to live within us -- the very presence of God inside us, forming us into a new creation -- working within us to transform us from sinful human beings into the men and women God has called us to be -- working with us to make us holy as God is holy -- to make us more and more like Jesus every day
-- so, as Paul puts it here in 2 Thessalonians, salvation ushers in the process of becoming saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit
-- we talked about how salvation was positional holiness -- that through Christ’s atoning death on the cross, our position has been changed in the eyes of God -- Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us -- we are seen in the eyes of God as holy because Christ’s holiness and righteousness covers us
-- but it is an undeniable fact that even though we are holy positionally in the eyes of God, we are far from being holy in our reality -- in our real lives -- as Oswald Sanders said, “The older I get, the more deeply I am aware of how sinful I am”
-- we know that we sin -- we know that we still do not do what is right -- we know that we still choose to disobey God and do things that are not pleasing to Him, even though we now have a desire to do better and even though Christ has destroyed the power of sin that was keeping us from being able to live sin-free lives
-- that’s where sanctification and the sanctifying work of the Spirit we read of here in 2 Thessalonians comes in
-- sanctification describes the process by which righteousness is imparted to us -- as the old becomes new and we are transformed into a new creation from the inside out -- this is known as progressive holiness -- living into the salvation and new life Christ made possible on the cross
-- this is when our behavior and our actions and our thoughts and our attitudes begin to mirror that of Jesus -- when the physical begins to mirror the spiritual and to reflect the change made within us through the saving and sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit
-- it is not something that we can do on our own -- it is only through the power of the Spirit working in us and through us that we become sanctified and set apart and holy as Jesus is holy
-- sanctification is the realization of our salvation as we begin to experience a life of grace and holiness
-- so let’s bring all this home -- I think the best way is to borrow an analogy from the Bible to summarize how these “S” words work in our lives
-- in many places in the New Testament, we see our Christian lives compared to a race -- the thing to remember about a race is that it has a definite beginning and an end -- you have a starting point and then you have a finish line
-- the starting point of our Christian life is the moment of salvation -- the moment when we come to believe and to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and we receive salvation -- when we are justified in the eyes of God and the righteousness and holiness of Jesus are imputed to us
-- that is our starting point -- it’s the point when we leave sin behind -- when sin no longer holds us back, but we are able to move forward into the true life that God has called us to live
-- the race itself corresponds to sanctification -- to our becoming more and more holy every day -- to becoming more like Jesus -- not just positionally in the eyes of God -- but in reality in our physical and spiritual lives here on earth as the Spirit works within us to make us more like Jesus
-- all the way along this race, you should be progressing from unholiness to holiness -- you should be progressing from sinfulness to righteousness -- or, as the Bible says, you should be growing from glory to glory.
-- If you have been saved for any length of time and have been trying to serve the Lord, you should be able to look back over your shoulder and see areas in your life where you have grown more obedient -- more holy -- to God
-- You should have areas in your life where you can say, "I used to commit this sin but now I don't. I walk in holiness in that area."
-- If you have been growing in holiness in your life, you should have at least one major area of sin that is no longer true for you.
-- Does that mean you are holy in all you do? --no -- But it means you are progressing, you are getting better, you are further down the road than you were when you started.
-- the finish line is our goal -- the finish line is the point where salvation and sanctification are truly realized -- where we experience our new life with Christ forever -- the finish line is eternal life with Christ -- and when we reach that point, we will be completely transformed into the men and women God has called us to be
-- so, what do you need to take home with you today? -- you need to remember the three “S” words -- that sin has been overcome by the salvation given on the cross -- and that we are being sanctified and made holy by the power of the Spirit within us
-- we are moving forward in holiness -- being sanctified and set apart to fulfill the calling on our lives -- and every day, we should be striving to become more and more like Jesus through the power of the Spirit within -- that is what I want you to get
-- let’s pray