Thursday, August 13, 2015

Romans 6:22

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life." Romans 6:22 ESV

What does it mean to be set free from something (sin in this case), to become slaves to something else (God in this case)? Are we really being set free if we become slaves to something else? The answer is YES! Lets go back to what Paul said in verse 13 "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness."
Then, he takes this a step further in verse 16 "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?"

Ultimately, we serve what we follow - either God, or something other than God - and anything that we follow for purposes other than God's glory is sin. So, we either follow God as His children, driven to serve and please Him as our loving, merciful, gracious Father...willing 'slaves' to the One who saved us - OR - we purse something other than Him, driven by our flesh, our selfish desires, our prideful lusts, willing 'slaves' - loving and serving that which will ultimately destroy us.

Through Paul, God continually brings it up...
we are not 'our own' - we serve something bigger than us...either sin and death, following the prince of darkness...or we serve Almighty God, where true freedom is found!

In verse 21, Paul talked about the fruit that comes from being a slave to sin, that being death...eternal death and condemnation is the guaranteed result for every person who dies having not entered into a relationship with God, having not been set free from the bondage of sin.

Now, Paul talks about the fruit that flows from a life that has been set free from sin, free from condemnation and bondage, free to experience a relationship with God. "The fruit you get leads to sancitification"...what does that word sanctification mean?

The Greek word here is also translated as 'holiness' and is defined as:  purification, i.e. (the state) purity;  a purifier:—holiness, sanctification.

To be 'sanctified' by English definition means: to be set apart for a sacred purpose, to be free from sin, to impart or impute sacredness or respect to.
So, when Paul says we receive fruit that leads to sanctification, what does he mean?
First: Who we serve will have an affect on our life. That affect on our life, known as fruit, is evidence of who we serve...either sin or obedience, as Paul put it in verse 16. As lost sinners, that fruit is evident through our love and willing pursuit of opposition to God...and Paul reminds us in verse 21 that at the end of that path is eternal death.
Second: Being purchased by God through the blood of His Son, being adopted into His family, experiencing the washing of the Holy Spirit that is regeneration, reveals a different type of fruit - fruit that comes from walking with the God that saved us. Here, we experience a life that is continuously being molded by the Potter.
As God brings us through experiences, through trials, ups and downs, and as we mature in our walk, we learn who He is and the fruit that comes from walking with Him. We learn what true faith, love, peace, joy and goodness (among so many others) are - we experience the living fruit of God taking root in our lives!
As the fruit of God takes root in our lives, we are being sanctified. We are being purified, being made holy by the One who is Holy! These things, when seen in the life of a Believer, are evidence of God, and reveal the working of His power in the lives of His children! This sanctification is not only the result of a soul experiencing salvation and eternal life, but will result in eternal life...that is the eternal life with God that awaits us when we pass from this earth!
What a contrast! A life free from the convictions of righteousness, free to serve sin and pursue the love self, which will ultimately reveal the bondage of the soul to sin through eternal death and condemnation - OR - a life that is truly from bondage to sin, free from eternal death and condemnation, free to serve the God that set us free!

Not only should we recognize that God performs the work of sanctification in our lives, we need to embrace it and seek after reveals the power of God in our life!
What fruit is being revealed in your life? As Christians, we need to give ourselves over to pursuing God with all of our heart, mind, and soul...that He will become our sole priority, that He influences everything we do or say. This will give way to His fruit taking root, and will reveal the sanctification that He is working in our lives...pray that He will be revealed through us to the world around us...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Romans 6:21

"But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death."   Romans 6:21 ESV

We are slaves of the one whom we obey...sin or obedience. These are our two options. Both involve slavery, both involve a type of freedom.

1. If we are slaves to sin, we are 'free' in regards to righteousness...that is, we are free from the convictions of what is holy, we don't care about what offends God because we don't care about God in general.

   note: we may feel 'guilt' or be convicted over things as lost people, but these aren't fueled by the Holy Spirit, and aren't rooted in the fact that we are trespassing against a holy God. When we are slaves to sin, and free in regards to righteousness (that which is truly good), any guilt or conviction we feel is based on our upbringing, experiences, etc...what we've been told is the right thing to do, act, say.

2. If we are slaves to obedience, we are free from the bondage of sin. This means we are in a battle every day, because we are no longer free in regards to righteousness. Now we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, about things that are truly good, and do revolve around what glorifies or offends the holy God that we love and live for!

So, we have the two options - to serve sin, or obedience. Serving one means to be 'free' from the other...although serving sin only provides the illusion of freedom, while serving in obedience is the result of true freedom!  Also, they both end at two different destinations - note these are the guaranteed destinations of each option. As Paul says here in verse 21...the end of these things is death (speaking of being slaves to sin). Repeating what he said in verse 16, "sin, which leads to death." We all die physically, but if we remain slaves to sin, willingly pursing a life of sinfulness and freedom from true righteousness until death, we will experience true, eternal death and condemnation of our soul, which lives forever.

Paul refers to the 'fruit' that we get from pursuing a life of sin. Fruit in this case being that which proceeds out of, or from, the path we have chosen. Our life will produce a certain type of fruit based on the decisions we make, how we live, etc....God is sovereign, there is no doubt. However, we are accountable for our decisions, If we choose to live a life of sinful pursuits and pleasures...there is a guaranteed fruit that will be produced...that being spiritual death.

This spiritual death doesn't wait to begin until after we die, that's when it becomes eternal, with no chance of redemption or reconciliation to God. Spiritual death is also currently present and producing its fruits in the lives of those who are physically alive, but have chosen the path of serving sin. The fruits of this are evident, and they all reveal an internal void, spiritual deadness; seeking the always changing approval of man, consumed with the next rung on the ladder (there is always another), always looking for something to identify with (teams, clubs, companies, friends, culture, a movement, etc. (all of which can change or let you down in a moment), always looking for security in things that are subject to change, attempting to find enjoyment, satisfaction, or fulfillment in things that are earthly and dead - these are simply the beginning.

These things aren't all necessarily bad in themselves, but when they identify who we are above all else, when they become the things that drive what we do and why we do it, they are proceeding from sinfulness, and are described as the fruit of those who are servants to sin - consumed by their pursuit of anything other than God, the only one who is truly good!

What does Paul say about these earthly pursuits, the fruits of our sinfulness? We ought to be ashamed of them! He actually states it as though our shame of partaking of these things, and allowing them to become the things that drive us, should be a given. "the thing of which you are now ashamed."

     note: when he says you are now ashamed, he is speaking to people who are saved, who are expected to no longer be consumed with these things...this should hit us square between the eyes...are we consumed with earthly things? Do we allow these things to drive what we do and why we do it? Do we look for enjoyment, satisfaction, or fulfillment in things that are earthly and dead? If so (and I would dare say we all deal with this), we ought to be ashamed before our perfect, holy, worthy God.

This battle is raging in the life of every believer, but it's a battle with guaranteed victory! So keep fighting! God is the only One who is able, look to Him to be your enjoyment, your satisfaction, your fulfillment. Let Him be the One who drives what you do and why you do it! He has called you to this new life, let Him use you now for His that submission and humility before Him you will find true joy and true peace!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Romans 6:20

"For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regards to righteousness."  Romans 6:20 ESV

Paul continues here to exhort us to pursue righteousness by reminding us of where we came from, who we were: slaves, willing servants, to sin - as he noted in the previous verse 'we presented (willingly) our members as slaves to impurity'

We have looked at these verses before, but I think it's important to look at them again. They are hard to read, and we tend to pass over them quickly. We view them as describing the past (and they are), but we slow down and let what God is telling us here really sink bad we really were, how ugly our sin really was, how enslaved to these things that oppose God we really were, and how willingly we embraced these things. While we may not have literally, actively done all of these things, they are all same in their opposition to God -- and many of them we are guilty of in principle without recognizing, because we dress up our sin in pretty little bows and don't address it for what it truly is. So, as hard as it may be, take the time to read these passages and let God speak.

" they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
   Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
   For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For the women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving the due penalty for their error.
   And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless."  Romans 1:20-31

"And you were dead in the trespasses in sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."  Eph 2:1-3

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and sins..." Col. 2:13

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you; sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices."  Col. 3:5-9

Pretty ugly...and that describes who we were.

When we read those passages, we see a lot of 'bad stuff' we are guilty of, and glaringly is our lack of resistance to the 'bad stuff' - which brings to light Paul's next point - how good it can feel, how natural or normal it can feel - to the point that we don't/can't recognize how good, necessary the gospel really is from the outside looking in.

- This is because, as lost people, we are consumed with the things that 'belong to the earth', they belong to the 'course of this world', they satisfy the 'passions of the flesh' and 'the desires of the body and mind' which are 'dishonorable', 'impure', and 'debased'. As bad as that all sounds, it feels good because all of that stems from, at the core, us being consumed with us, which is our biggest problem.

- Because these things, as evil and opposing to God as they are, serve to satisfy the flesh, and feel good, we don't see ourselves as slaves to anything. We would never consider ourselves slaves based on what we know about the brutality of slavery throughout history...we would never willingly embrace slavery or make ourselves subject to it. We would agree with the Pharisees in their disbelief to Jesus pronouncing they needed to be set free. (John 8:33) How can we, who aren't slaves, be set free - we belong to no one.

But Paul is coming from a different perspective, a spiritual perspective...and spiritually, we belong either to God, bought by the blood of Christ, or to Satan and sin, in opposition to and at enmity with God. Slavery, as a positional description of our soul, describes who we serve. Ultimately who we serve will be revealed through the fruits that our lives display...nothing is hidden from God, and there is no 'middle' ground.

Paul has been covering the idea of being slaves to sin pretty extensively throughout Romans 6, but introduces a new thought here - the truth that, while we are slaves to sin, we are free in regards to righteousness. What does this mean, to be slaves to sin but free from righteousness?

- We just looked at several passages that talk about the condition of our heart and mind when we are slaves to righteousness, and the fact that we are, at our core, impure, dishonorable, and debased. The fact that our mind and heart are so corrupt means that we are unable to truly feel any spiritual conviction/battle within us. We are void of the Holy Spirit, and our heart and mind are in agreement in their pursuit of selfish and prideful things...all feels good and well! We are free in the sense that we have no conviction of our opposition to God...we exist to serve ourselves, and as a result we prove out our total enslavement to sin.

Think of it this way:

You are on vacation, taking a train ride with a group of friends, cruising down the tracks enjoying the trip. The scenery is beautiful, the food and drinks are great, its all fun and laughter. Everything is perfect - not an ounce of concern in the moment.
What you don't realize is just down the tracks, the bridge spanning a large river is out. The entire train is about to plunge into that river, but you have no are free in regards to the knowledge of what is about to happen.
It's that old saying...'ignorance is bliss'.

When Paul says we are 'free in regards to righteousness' - he doesn't mean we are truly free, true freedom is only realized through Christ, and he clearly describes in detail our enslavement to sin. Paul means that, as slaves to sin, we are on that train ride, headed for destruction, but not convicted, not concerned, free from the knowledge of what is actually good.

Friend, if you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, if you have not given your life over to the God who created you, you are on that train headed for destruction...Paul will go on to tell us what the guaranteed consequence is for those who stay on that train, following the course of the world - eternal death.

BUT - There is another 'train' on another 'track''s adoption into family of God...with all the love, mercy, grace, and promises He gives us in His word, it's freedom from all of the 'bad stuff' we just read about, it's true freedom to enjoy God through serving's all made possible through His Son, and it starts with you crying out to Him, accepting Him as Lord and Savior! Living a life given over to God, to be used by Him for His glory, is blessing without compare!! 

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Romans 6:19

I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  Romans 6:19 ESV

Paul has been spent a significant amount of time explaining the importance of not giving ourselves over to a lifestyle that freely embraces sin, but rather to purse a lifestyle of righteousness. The reason we do this is because it's the proper response to God's grace, which Paul discussed at the end of chapter 5. Our motive in pursuing righteousness is not to gain freedom from sin, but because we have already been set free from the law and the condemnation of sin.

Both of those Truths, God's grace and being set free from the law, are wonderful, deep, life changing promises. BUT, they can be abused, as we can see by the questions Paul asked to begin chapter 6: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? and in chapter 6 verse 15: What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? 

Because Paul knows the human nature, and the desire of the flesh to embrace sin, he knew that some time needed to spent explaining not only God's grace and our freedom, but thoroughly the proper response to God's grace, and the proper motive behind our response.

Yet, sometimes, we have to take a step back and look at the big picture in broader terms to get our perspective right. Sometimes starting with a more simple view allows us to dig in with the proper foundation. Paul's purpose in chapter 6, in the midst of the powerful, deep, doctrinal Truth he has revealed, is refuting the idea that a lifestyle embracing sin...any completely wrong.

In chapter 6, Paul has talked about God's grace, being baptized with Christ, being set free from sin, set free from the law, dying with Christ, being made alive with Christ, becoming obedient from the heart, and more. Paul seems to pause here in verse 19, though, and recap what he has been explaining since verses 12 and 13, where he stated:   Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

In verse 19, Paul starts by explaining why he is basically summing up what he has been saying concerning our proper motive and response to God's grace and justification:
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations.

I believe there are very real natural limitations that we must recognize, which make it important to start or refocus with a more simple view of God's Truth at times. Depth is good, and we must always be learning the depths of God's Truths, because they will always be changing us on so many levels. However, we don't want to miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes. We don't want to be so consumed with certain deep Truths (God's grace for example), that we miss the point.

This is one of our human limitations: we live with and battle the flesh on a daily basis...flesh that is constantly trying to justify and embrace sin. This means that, as we dig in to God's Word full of Truth, the flesh will constantly attempt to twist certain things in order to prevent us from realizing how sinful we really are. To keep this from distracting us, sometimes we need to look at the broader picture to recenter ourselves.

The other natural limitation we live with is our basic inability to grasp who God is. This doesn't mean that we don't attempt to draw close to God, to pursue a deep, intimate relationship with Him. However, it does mean that sometimes we need to take a look at the broader picture of who God is and what that means about everything and everyone else.

So, how does Paul paint a more simple picture? He uses very broad strokes to sum up what he has been talking about:
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness
What is Paul saying here? You used to be slaves of sin, willingly presenting yourselves to a lifestyle that fully embraced sin, which is impurity and lawlessness. What is the guaranteed result of a lifestyle that embraces sin? More sin, plain and simple. There is no sin that can be justified because of a greater good...all sin will by default give way to more sin if not dealt with.

While there is definitely some depth that can be found here, Paul is reminding us (as he has laid out in detail throughout Romans) that we are sinful creatures with a very sinful, ugly past.

Then, Paul talks about how God's children ought to respond to His grace:
so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 
Just like we used to embrace sin, we ought now to embrace a life of righteousness! Righteousness...this requires us to give ourselves over to God so that He can work through us. This is the polar opposite of embracing a sinful lifestyle driven by pride and selfishness!

God follows with a promise: embrace a life of doing what's right according to the Word (which includes proper motive) and you will experience sanctification, or purification. This is Christian growth and maturity as we draw close to God. As we experience God on a greater level, we begin to experience His promises on a greater level - this is sanctification: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22,23.

To sum it up, Paul is explaining in basic terms so that we can recenter and refocus: don't embrace sin like you used to, sin will only lead to more sin, no sin is ok. Instead, as God's children, purge sin fom your life and embrace righteousness, pursue what's right in God's eyes, which begins with drawing close to Him, and let the power of sanctification take place...the reward is unparalleled!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Romans 6:18

"and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves to righteousness."   Romans 6:18 ESV

We have been looking at the two descriptions that Paul has laid out, one or the other applies to every single person that has ever lived: either to be a slave (willing servant) in submission to sin, or a slave (willing servant) in submission to obedience to God.

We all born as willing servants in submission to sin. We have looked at this in depth several times, as Paul did, in the early part of Romans. Our love for and bondage to sin runs deep, it plays into everything we do because it proceeds from a corrupt heart and mind - a heart and mind that love the dark and hate the light that exposes them.

If we go to Genesis 6:5 and 8:21 (among many, many other verses), we see the absolute evil of man:

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."  (6:5)

"I (the Lord) will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth..."  (8:21)

BUT - Paul changed his tone in verse 17, where he addressed those who were no longer slaves to sin. He began talking specifically to those who once were slaves of sin, but had become obedient from the heart...these are the saved children of God! No longer in bondage, controlled and condemned by sin!

set free from sin...

Now, in verse 18, Paul gives us a little more depth as to what has happened to those who have become obedient from the heart...they have been set free from sin! He said the same thing in verse 7 while talking about the power of being baptized and united with Christ in death and resurrection. "For one who has died has been set free (or justified) from sin."

How were we....the ones who are described as evil from our youth, corrupt from the heart and mind, lovers of darkness and haters of light, having no desire to seek after were we set free from sin?

One thing we can be sure of, it was not because of anything we did. We are not able to make a corrupt heart pure, nor are we able to renew a corrupt mind...we cannot cause regeneration. Job 14:4 speaks to this: "Who can bring a clean thing out of unclean? There is not one."  Also, in 15:14, we see that man has no ability to become, or make himself, pure or righteous: "What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?"

Again, we see this described in Psalm 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

If we, evil men, full of pride, lovers of self, born into sinful bondage and condemnation, are unable to clean or purify ourselves, (a truth recognized by both Old and New Testament writers), how do we become this people that Paul is describing, clean and pure, set free from all of this that is in opposition to God?

We saw that Psalm 51 speaks to our need for regeneration. It also speaks very abundantly, and so powerfully, about the One who provides that regeneration...again, not us! I chose a few verses that I really love, but the entire Psalm is so beautiful, it would be good for us to read it regularly. 

"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."  vs 2

"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." vs 7

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." vs 10

We see that God is the One who cleanses us, who renews us, who regenerates us by the washing of the Holy Spirit, all through His Son. God is the One who gives us a submissive and obedient heart, who causes us to become slaves, willing servants of righteousness. We can't cause ourselves to become these things. 

have become slaves of righteousness...

BUT....once God has worked His powerful miracle of regeneration within us, we are called throughout Scripture to nurture what God has created - we are commanded to live a life in submission to God. When Paul says we have become slaves of righteousness, this is both a promise and a command. A promise that God has set us free from our bondage to sin, and a command to be submissive and obedient to that which is right and good. 

There is a response expected from those who, by God's grace, have been set free from sin. Look at verse 13: Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 

We have no ability within ourselves to do anything righteous. We are, however, called to submit ourselves to God so that we might become an instrument for Him to work through. This includes not partaking in sin, and continually purging/moving away from the sinful things that distract us and hinder our relationship with God. God, who will use us as His instruments for righteousness, will also give us the power to overcome sin in our lives. We need to determine if we are really submitting to Him or if we are attempting to justify the sin in our life. 

The clearest, most effective way present ourselves to God as instruments, willing slaves of righteousness, to be used by God for His glory, is to spend time in His Word and in prayer. This will reveal areas that need work in our lives, and will set us free from our tainted perspective.  John 8:31,32 promises this: "If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." 

There is no other way to learn about God, to get to know Him, to know His promises, and to know the correct way we are to respond to His grace, mercy, and love, other than to seek Him through His Word. His Word reveals who He is, what He has promised, how much He loves us, how powerful His grace is, how abundant His mercy is, how we are to respond to all of this when He pours it into our lives, and what the life of a child of God that reflects God and reveals God to a lost world ought to look like. And for what purpose does all of this take place? 

" that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven"  Mathew 5:16

"....from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" Romans 11:36

" Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" Ephesians 3:21

" the glory and praise of God" Philippians 1:11

As we read God's Word, it becomes so clear...this is not about us, at all. Our existence is about God, God, God. He is to be glorified in all things, and has blessed us as His children to be used by Him for His there anything else that compares to being an instrument for God? NO! So why do we fight submission? Why do we try to hold onto things for ourselves? 

My challenge for all of us is to immerse ourselves in the Word and in prayer this year, with the desire to become submissive, willing obedient servants of God, in order that we might be used by Him to a greater degree, for His glory! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Romans 6:17

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed  Romans 6:17 ESV

We spent a lot of time going through Romans 6:16, where Paul laid out the two conditions of man: willing servants of sin, or willing servants of obedience to God - there are no options other than these two. Paul has spent most of early Romans explaining that, by default, we are willing servants of sin - the lusts of the flesh and selfish pursuits that stem from a debased mind and corrupt heart (see Romans 1:18-32).

Keep in mind the context of these verses. At the end of Chapter 5, Paul touched on the abundance of God's grace, and knew the question would follow: if God's grace abounds where there is sin, why not sin more? Paul then spent Chapter 6 explaining the powerful transformation that takes place when a sinner is baptized in Christ and set free from sin - abiding in sin is no longer an option.

Being set free from the condemnation and control of sin through Christ means we are no longer under the law, but under grace...again Paul knew the question would follow: if we are no longer under the law, are we allowed to sin? (he really had a grasp on the selfishness of the human heart didn't he)

So, now Paul has explaining, in verse 16 and now 17 (and will continue through chap 7), that being set free from the law by no means gives us a license to sin freely. Instead of leaving it at that though, the Holy Spirit of God instructed Paul to lay out in detail why we shouldn't even desire to sin freely...just like He did at the beginning of Chapter 6.

We shouldn't have a desire to live a life of sin as God's children...if we don't desire to purge sin from our lives on a daily basis then we haven't grasped the power of the transformation that takes place when we are transferred from darkness to light, from death to life.

The entire bible speaks to this transformation, through Christ. We see who we were in light of who God is, and who we are by the grace and of God - which allows us to be used by God for His glory, to do things we never would have wanted or been able to do! We are set free to live a life that reflects the character and glory of God, which He reveals through His Word!

This transformation is what Paul speaks to in verse 17 of Chapter 6. After explaining the two possible states of man, lost or saved, he uses this phrase to transition:

But thanks be to God

I love this, because it puts the credit squarely where it God alone. 
The phrase 'thanks be to' here is very is actually the Greek word 'charis' which is translated as 'grace' 130 times in the New Testament. This is important, I believe, because it reveals a different type of thanks than we might be used to.

We thank people all the time, for many different reasons. When Paul says thanks be to God, he is talking about a specific type of thanks...Paul is talking about a response brought forth by an act of grace...which is where the word charis, usually translated grace, comes in. In Romans 11:6, Paul describes this 'grace' as a gift that cannot be earned:

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; 
otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 

The word 'grace' in Romans 11:6 is the same Greek word 'charis' -  our thanks is in response to a gift we have given that we did not earn or deserve... in response to God's grace, we thank Him and praise Him! (Thanks be to God). Why? What happened? What was the result of God's grace?
that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart

By the grace of God, this powerful transformation has taken place! To Him be the glory, praise, and honor forever! Our response to this work of grace should be thanks - thanks that plays out in offering our life as a living sacrifice to this Awesome God! 

Paul covers a lot of ground with this part of verse 17. I want to break it into two parts. First, we see who we were (think the two states of every man discussed in verse 16). We were slaves (willing servants) of sin! All of us were, regardless of geography, gender, race, religion, or anything else - every single person ever born falls into this category to begin with. We are a sinful people, who give birth to sinful people.

There are many passages in the Bible that speak of the evilness of man in his lost state, we oppose God at every turn, we hate the light, we slander, murder with anger in our hearts, lust after everything that seems to satisfy the flesh...we are ugly inside and out - no matter how we try to paint it. This is what willing servants of sin look like...and such were we.

But...those who have been saved are no longer this way. We have become obedient from the heart! How? Not because we worked hard enough or went far enough...not at all. Remember...thanks be to His grace we have been saved through faith! We have been regenerated, our hearts changed, our minds renewed! We now desire God and all that He is about!

It's necessary to acknowledge, though, that as Christians, we do have a past. We have been completely forgiven, but the lusts and selfishness of the flesh still come up against us, causing a battle within us. One day this battle will cease when we enter into eternal glory with God, but today the battle is real, and it can be fierce. It is a battle we will fight until the day we die, as God continually reveals the depths of our sinfulness, and the influence that our flesh has all that we do.

When we are battle weary, we need to come back to what God is promising us here through Paul - we are His children, and through grace we have become obedient and submissive from the heart. Notice, God doesn't command us to do anything to become children of this promise...He tells us it has already happened. We have become obedient...this is a result of our regeneration!

How does this Truth (we were lost sinners but have become obedient from the heart) help battle weary soldiers of God?
-We acknowledge we were sinners - controlled and condemned by the sin we loved.
-We embrace the promise that God, by His grace, has caused our heart to become obedient through the washing of regeneration.
-We nurture this obedience and submission through the things that are explained throughout God's Word - love, renewing our minds, pursuing a clear conscience, seeking a pure heart, living with sincere faith, giving our lives as a living sacrifice (dying to self as we exalt God's will and design).

When we consume ourselves with these three things, acknowledge, embrace, and nurture, of God's promise, we begin to recognize areas of sin in our life and attack it with a vengeance...with a passion driven by appreciation for God and His amazing, undeserved grace. This minimizes how much of a foothold the flesh is able to gain in our lives!

The question then becomes this: what are we obedient from the heart to? Paul said in verse 16 that one option was to be obedient to obedience, or as we found as we dug in, obedient to submission. When we obey by submission, what are we submitting to? The easy answer is God, but what does that all entail? Paul tells us at the end of vs 17:

to the standard of teaching to which you were committed

In obedience, we submit to the standard of teaching (also translated doctrine) to which we were committed (also can be translated 'which was delivered to you')
We were entrusted with a doctrine, a doctrine to which we have become obedient to through submission to it...what is this doctrine?

This is a study that would take years and years (most likely lifetimes) if we really dug in, but I think it can be summed up with what Paul said in verse 16. The doctrine itself is a doctrine of submission, humility, and obedience. Through this doctrine, God's character is revealed, for His glory. His grace and mercy are on display, His love shines through, the power of regeneration through Jesus Christ is made known - regeneration that is seen through changed lives, lives that are centered on submission and obedience - lives that are in direct conflict with the pride and selfishness of the flesh and the world that strives to satisfy that flesh.

I believe that everything in God's Word points to this teaching of submission, humility, and obedience to God's will and design... how to embrace it, protect it, apply it, and live it so that God is glorified through it! This is the teaching I believe Paul is talking about here in verse 17.

As we move towards a new year, lets pray that God keeps this important doctrine of obedience that has been entrusted to us at the forefront of our minds. Pray that throughout the next year, God reveals areas of our life that need to be addressed, that we could submit to His will and design to an even greater degree...for God is glorified through this, and that is where true joy and peace are found! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Romans 6:16 (part 4)

...or of obedience, which leads to righteousness   Romans 6:16 ESV part 4

In this post, we will continue looking at what it means to be obedient slaves to the one we serve, and the fact that how we spend our time, energy, and resources reveals who or what we are presenting ourselves to as willing servants, obedient slaves. This will finish up verse 16, and as we move forward, Paul will shed even more light on this topic.

Here is verse 16 in its entirety:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 

In the previous posts, we have discussed this idea that what we do reveals who we are. Verse 16 is also very clear that who we serve, we serve willingly...we are never forced by God to be lost, sinful creatures. We are lost sinful creatures because, as Paul says, we present ourselves as obedient slaves.

In the last post, we saw that one option is to present ourselves as obedient slaves to sin, which leads to death. In this post, we will look at the other option.
     - side note - we also looked at the fact that there are only two options. There is no middle ground or neutral area. We are either slaves of sin, or as we will look at now, slaves of obedience. By default, refusing obedience makes us slaves to sin, and being set free from sin makes us slaves of obedience.

Here is what we see Paul saying in regards to obedience here in verse 16:  The other option is to present yourselves as obedient slaves to obedience, which leads to righteousness.

This is very interesting, this idea of obedient slaves of obedience - so much is revealed about what it means to be a child of God. The Greek words translated obedient and obedience both imply submission to authority . As lost people, we willingly submit to sinful lusts and desires, they are what drives every thing that we do.

As God's children, the change that has taken place in our heart is made evident by the fact that we willingly submit to a new Master - God. Our submission to God is made evident through our submission to Him. (though we continue to hang on to areas of pride, and God continually reveals areas in which we need to submit, the ultimate desire of the heart is submission)

So, when Paul says we are obedient slaves of obedience, he is telling us as God's children that the thing we are to be controlled by, the thing that is supposed to guide our every decision, the thing that we are to be submissive to, is obedience/submission to God. If this is true (and God said it so it is!) we can know this:
as God's children, we are to be in constant pursuit of obedience to Him
If we are not pursuing obedience and submission to God continuously, we in gross disobedience. We like to say, "I'm a Christian" and then justify why we don't do what the bible commands us to do. Things like "Seek first the kingdom of God" - "Draw close to God" - "Be holy" - "Put to death what is earthly in you" - or whatever else challenges us as Christians. We like to gray the lines when it comes to verses like this because the standard set by God is so perfect and unattainable. But, as His children, we are to be driven by a desire to submit and obey. Keep this in mind for a minute while we look at some Scripture.

It's so interesting that the reason Satan was cast from heaven was pride. Pride is the opposite of submission, and pride is the driving reason behind why, as lost people, we do not choose God. We refuse to submit to an ultimate authority. This reveals the power of God, that He can take us as prideful, self-centered, arrogant people and make us obedient (submissive) from the heart - as Paul will discuss in greater detail in the following verses.

Look at these verses:

And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"  Mathew 8:26,27

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."  Mark 1:25-27 

In the two passages above, we see the authority of God through Jesus on display.  The elements of the earth conform to His authority. The spiritual realm, including the demons who hate Him, conform to His authority. The difference is, they don't do this willingly...the elements of the earth can't be willing, and the demons hate God, yet they must conform to the authority of the Creator.

Back to the statement we looked at above: as His children, we are to be driven by a desire to submit and obey. When we obey things God says, but don't willingly pursue obedience to Him and His entire Word, in all areas of our life, we are revealing that we are submissive to God as the One who is more powerful than us, and maybe to a degree as our Father, BUT we are not submitting to obedience as the driving factor in all that we do. Obedient to obedience speaks of submission to the greatest degree.

If a parent tells their child to go to their room, and the child does it knowing that if they don't the parent has the ability to physically carry them to their room, the child is obeying simply because the parent is stronger than them, not because they want to.

If a parent tells their child to go to their room, and they do it because they want to do what their parent says, because of the love between them, their desire to obey their parent is driving their act of obedience...this is being obedient to obedience.

The analogy is weak, I hope it sheds light on how we are to be living as God's children!

As humans, God is our creator, and we ultimately conform to His authority. However, Paul tells us that, as His children, we are to recognize and acknowledge the authority of our Creator, and follow Him in submission, fighting against the pride and self-centered attitudes of the flesh that want everything to be about us.

Let's look at some Scripture that commands our obedience to Christ - and solidifies the command to be obedient to obedience, willingly submitting to God through obedience in all areas of our life.

But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.  Acts 5:29

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ  2 Corinthians 10:5

(Jesus Christ)...through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations  Romans 1:5

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart  1 Peter 1:22

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.  
1 Peter 1:2

and probably the most powerful example of being obedient to obedience...Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our perfect example...also was obedient:
Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what he suffered.

How are we living as God's children? Are we obedient to obedience? Are we willingly submitting to all of God's Word, in every area of our lives? Are we pursuing obedience to God through submission to Him? Are we allowing obedience to God be the thing that drives all that we do? 

Or...are we 'kind of' obedient? Is obedience to God something that we do when it is convenient? Do we try to live a 'moral' life, go to church on Sunday, and give some of our money to those in need - and consider ourselves 'obedient'? 

My friend, I think we all find ourselves in the second description more than we would like - we are sinful creatures...but this is not what we should be OK with. We need to discipline ourselves to pursue God by submitting to can we do this? We need to allow obedience to God to become the thing that drives us, not in an effort to gain a reward, but out of love for Him as our Father! We need to desire being obedient to obedience! 

To me, this sounds so hard at times. How do I make myself desire being obedient to obedience all the time. I get frustrated when I screw up, when I get distracted, when I totally flip flop my priorities...and God reminds me of these promises:
Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you. James 4:8
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:20
       ...and SO MANY more!

The greatest thing about being obedient to obedience is this: submission to God is not about working hard to achieve something, it's all about letting go! The world will run itself into the ground attempting to achieve it's obedience to the lusts of the flesh. We are so blessed! We have been called to a relationship that is all about being released from the curse of work! We can lay it all at the throne of God, and He will draw close to us, strengthen us, bless us, and ultimately, work through us for HIS GLORY!!!!