Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shall we go on sinning? Part 4

v4a -Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, - Lastly this morning we will look at the object of our having been baptized into the death of Christ.  If we’ve died to sin, then sin is not the source of our joy.  Something else is.  We have become new creatures.  What then is our joy?  It is that though we were once reigned by death, now, through Christ, we have life!  Grace and life reign in us!  Christ is our joy!

And if we have died with Christ as Paul suggests, then we must also have been raised with Him and will be resurrected to a perfect life in eternity.

v4b - so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,

For no other reason does God save us.  He saves us to give us new life and in that He demonstrates His love and grace and receives Glory and Honor.  Jesus was raised through the Glory of the Father, the demonstration of His incomparable, unexplainable Glory.

So, verse 1-3 unpacks the how and what of second birth.  And now the end of that… to what end… to what end have we died to sin and been born again through Christ?  v4c - so we too might walk in newness of life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Newness of life insinuates newness of heart because we know that the heart is vital to our life.  Proverbs 4:23 says that the heart is the well spring of life.  So how do we have a new life if not by receiving a new heart?  Not a new physical heart of course, but the spiritual heart…

Note the posture of the one who has been buried with Christ in the end of verse 4 there.  They are walking.  We WALK on a new path.  Life our life according to the will of God as revealed in His Word.  Old desires will fade and go away as we grow because those old desires no longer have power over us.

Our identification with Christ in His death results in our walking in ‘newness of life’.  What a profound thought.  What an amazing thing to happens to us when God saves us.  We can hardly even grasp it.  The person who responds to the call of the Gospel to repent and trust in Christ… that person is crucified, buried, and resurrected with His Savior so that when God looks at that person He no longer sees the guilty sinner but the sinless Savior.

You began life having violated God’s standards… His Law… Christian, you were enslaved to sin, owing God a debt you could never repay… But through Christ!  Through the merits of the Savior alone!  God cleansed you of all unrighteousness!

If God so loved us, how can we help but to so love Him, that we desire obedience to Him at all costs.  If you do return… or have returned… to the life you lived before coming to Christ and if you are able to continue on in it, then you are more than likely not saved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shall we go on sinning? Part 3

3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

Is it possible they’ve missed the point of grace!?  What Paul intends to do here is draw a reminder for them.  He says, don’t you remember that when you were baptized… you were crucified with Christ!  We are not only dead to our former ways, but they are buried.  To return to our old ways would mean returning to that old self.  It is like a dog that returns to its own vomit and eats it… Proverbs 26:11 - Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.

Now, Paul references literal water baptism here to remind them of the statement they were making when they were baptized.  While not mandatory for salvation, baptism is important of course because we are commanded to do it.  But in baptism we are making the public announcement that we are renouncing our past life and professing to have a new identity.  As I said, the significance of it gets lost sometimes in our day because we are safe in the church when we baptize…

In Paul’s day and in many foreign countries still today, baptism was done in a public place.  No baptisteries in the church or anything like that.  You got baptized in the nearest river or lake or whatnot… Baptism in the Bible exclusively declared that your loyalty was to Christ.  This was a risky declaration.  It often put the believer’s life in jeopardy… as well as their families’ lives. 

A Romans Christian faced death because you were only to be loyal to Caesar.  Not anyone else.  But being a Christian meant Christ over Caesar and that meant immediate death for treason.  Paul reminds them that being a Christian means that you are dead to your sin and are resolved to never go back to it.

Galatians 3:27 - For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
The message being sent is this.  RESPOND TO YOUR CALLING CHRISTIANS!  Or else in your continued disobedience you prove that you are in fact alive to sin and if alive to sin, you are dead to Christ.  The emphasis in this passage is not on the act of baptism but rather what it stands for.

But what if I do sin?  Because obviously Christians at some time sin don’t they?  As a Christian you cannot return to sin in the same was as you once did.  An adult can act like a child at times, but an adult cannot BE a child.  He can never go back to being a child.

In the same way, if you are truly born again you cannot return to a lifestyle of sin.  Well you might be thinking… well how do I know the difference?  How do I know if I am a stumbling in sin or living in it?  Well, ask yourself, if when you sin… what comes to mind first?  How you can hide what you’ve done or do your thoughts immediately go to the Gospel.  Remembering what Christ has done for you on the cross?  Do your think about how what you are doing is not only wrong or shameful… but not God honoring behavior?

You may not like to hear it, that God will make a Christian’s life harder if there is persistent sin struggles, but you know it is true… Have you not had times when life was difficult and you could trace it back to being a direct result of something sinful you did?  And that increased difficulty… that corrective discipline… it is intended to further sanctify you and put you back squarely on the path God has set for you. 

To send you BACK to the Savior.  Trusting in Him more and more.  1 John 4:4 - You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shall we go on sinning? Part 2

v2b - How shall we who died to sin still live in it? – This theme is THROUGHOUT Scripture. 

Colossians 3:3 - For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. - Died… and now when you see me… everything you see is Christ.  I’m hidden with Him in God and God no longer looks at me with wrath but as His child.  His beloved child.

But as His child, I’m called to obedience.  1 Peter 2:21-25 - For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,  22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;  23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;  24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

He died on the cross so that we would die to sin.  We were helpless against sin remember?  Captive to it.  But Christ died.  What’s the focus?  CHRIST!  Not a Christ that enables sinning…  Peter says that He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our soul! 

Paul asks his first question and then answers it … How shall we who died to sin live in it?  Look at it like this… The opposite of someone who has died to sin is someone who LIVES in it.

John Calvin said “He who [lives in] sin certainly lives TO sin.”  So how can we keep living in that which we’ve died to?  The answer is simple.  We can’t.  Grace is not just a subduing force over sin, grace is a conqueror of sin!

God does not justify someone (He doesn’t save them) with out also regenerating their heart.  So that after He saves us we can serve Him in holiness.  We are partakers of His Spirit.  It would be a contradiction of God’s grace if sin were to be the reason that grace was made stronger.

We died to sin. It points to a one time act when God convicted us of our sin.  Our conscience screamed at us that we were guilty before a Holy God.  He drew us to Him and we responded in obedience by repenting of our sins and forsook them to trust instead in Christ. 

Now, let’s make some things clear before moving to verse 3.  Being dead to sin does not mean we are unresponsive to sin.  If we were unresponsive to sin then we would not have to be told, in Scripture, to avoid sin and fight it, putting it to death by the Spirit.

In Salvation, we are regenerated.  Sin loses its appeal to us.  It loses its controlling grip on our lives.  Furthermore we are forgiven of our sin.  The Holy Spirit comes then to enable us to turn from sin continually (Revelation 12:10).

Does that make sense?  It would be a lie to say that Christians aren’t tempted to sin.  We are.  Satan tempts us on all fronts.  He knows what sin you are most prone to stumble in and so that is what he comes at you with… CONSTANTLY. 

So Paul is NOT saying that you aren’t a Christian if you are tempted.  He’s talking about living in sin and just flat not caring that Jesus died to save you from those sins.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A brief word on burning the Qur'an

Well let's begin with the obvious question.  Before we answer the question from a Christian perspective we have to first ask from a legal perspective. 

Can this Florida Pastor burn the Qur'an.  Sure.  You could easily make the argument that it is within his first amendment rights to do so and exercise his belief in this way.  So that's the easy answer... although perhaps not so easy?  Now, the more important question and ultimately the question all Christians must ask about anything they do.  Should he burn the Qur'an?  No.  Emphatically no.

Is the Qur'an an evil book that depicts a malicious and false god? Yes.  Then again so are all other 'religious' books that aren't the Holy Bible.  Even still, that does not make it proper for him to burn these books.  What's the benefit of doing this?  Well, I can't judge his motives, however, just from what he has revealed about himself he is doing this in response to the plans for a Mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York.  Should our motivation, as Christians, EVER be a retaliation response?  Nope.  What is our ultimate goal as a Christian?  To Glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

We are to do ALL THINGS to His Glory.  A cruel act such as this is not God Glorifying.  While you could make the argument that destroying these books glorifies God in a sense (although that's shaky ground) you cannot escape that it is NOT the behavior of a Christian.  We are to glorify God and love one another.  Now before you begin to think that I am being soft here.  I maintain that the most loving thing we can do as Christians is preach the Gospel.  Preach it.  Not just demonstrate Christlike behavior through our works, but PREACH the message of the Gospel.  That mankind is sinful from birth, show them their sin using the Law, and then give them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Burning a Qur'an will not convert one single Muslim.  All it will do is cause them to say, 'See the Christians are just as violent as we are accused of being.'

Burning the Qur'an WILL NOT save any of them from the terrible fate that awaits them on Judgment Day.  And if that is the case, and I firmly believe it is, then what can save them?  The Gospel.  Why?  Because Romans 1:16-18 says that Gospel is the very POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION!  So who saves anyone from anything?  God does.  God does, and He has chosen in His Sovereignty to do so using the means of the Gospel message.

I hesitate to assert this as I do not want to overstep into judging this man's motives.  However, if his actions are any indication, could it be that he doesn't understand that before God saved Him, He deserved no less hell than the most cruel Muslim?  As did I... and so did any Christian reading this.

We were no less a child of hell than ANY lost person on this planet before God saved us.  But thanks be to God that He has saved us from our sins.  Brought to us 'newness of life' (Romans 6:4).

Lastly, let's not forget.  Romans 12:17-21 - Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I urge you, brethren, do not engage in such activity as this and do not align yourselves with such acts.  Instead, spend that time and energy hitting the streets of your community and preaching the Gospel.  Dare I say that a more obedient approach for this man, if he truly wants to be God-Glorifying, would be for him to find the nearest Muslim Mosque and wait outside to approach any exiting Muslim willing to talk to him and given them the Gospel.  
Just my thoughts off the cuff, sorry it seems scattered... I have received several emails asking what my position is so I thought this might be easier.  Bottom line:  Burning the Qur'an will never convert any Muslim to Christianity, it will only provoke violence against Christians. However, preaching the Gospel to them and using the Law to awaken their conscience to their sin, THAT, God will use to convert Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Mormons, etc...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shall we go on sinning? Part 1

Romans 6:1-4 - What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

The opening question of chapter 6 cannot be understood fully unless you have looked thoroughly at Romans 5.  Because in Romans 5, Paul shows us this beautiful and exquisite picture of God’s grace, shown through Jesus Christ, against the backdrop of the blackness of the human heart… our sin.  So it was important that we look deeply at chapter 5 for the last several weeks, and now we can move on.

v1a - What shall we say then? - You see he is going to confront an abuse going on in the church of his audience.  What shall we say then, it’s a challenge to look back and draw honest Biblical conclusions from what he’s written to them already.  His question, v1b - Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? – He is chiefly addressing professing Christians here.

Should we continue sinning or living in sin that is, so that the grace of God abounds all the more?  You see here’s what many people do.  They profess Christ.  They say that they are saved and in Him, yet their life doesn’t reflect it.  Nothing changes.  They are the same in their behavior as before their supposed conversion.  There were those in Paul’s day (and I suspect in ours as well) who would say, well I am a Christian so I can do whatever I want, I can sin as much as I want and it’s ok because the grace of God will abound all the more in my life because of it and God will just continue to forgive me.  I can sin and sin is no big deal to me because I am a Christian.  That’s their mentality… truly they have rationalized their sin away by creating this twisted understanding of the Grace of God.

Now, let’s establish a couple of things.  Will God in fact continue forgiving us for every sin? Yes.  However, if we are in Christ, our attitude towards sin will not be the same.  Once the Holy Spirit has indwelt us we don’t think about sin the same way.  We want to turn from sin.  We want to live in a way that pleases God.  And when sin does creep up and we fall into it, it grieves us because we know what it cost our Savior to buy our pardon from that and all other sin.

So while Paul has established that though our sins abound, God’s Grace abounds all the more.  As we said last week, Paul means that God’s forgiveness is greater than ALL our sin.  Always has been and always will be.  What these people are doing is twisting scripture and abusing grace by sinning all the more as if to say that their sinning does God a favor…

In truth, they are wriggling to escape the believer’s call to be sanctified.  Because which is easier?  To persevere in the faith at all costs as Paul has laid out in chapter 5, always trusting in Christ, or persevere in sinning?  Sinning, of course, because that’s what comes naturally to us.  That takes no effort to do. 

This text clears up any perversion of grace that may be going around.  It is a sad statement but I know that there are even churches today who teach that we can use grace as a license to sin… those types of teachings are truly damning folks…

Literally rendered, verse 1 reads like this… ‘What shall we affirm then, are we to persevere in breaking God’s Law so that His loving kindness and grace will super abound?’

So there’s Paul’s question, and now the answer.  v2a - 2 May it never be! – Straight to the point.  MAY IT NEVER BE!  It means, GOD FORBID!  That is very very strong language.  It is an indignant reproof.  Paul is stunned!  How could they possibly rationalize away something like a life of sin and still consider themselves born again?  God forbid that we should ever believe a lie from Satan that we can abuse the Grace of God in such a way…

He is impressing this on their minds.  In fact, nothing is more incompatible with God than sin.  How could we say that we have been redeemed by the precious Blood of the innocent Son of God and yet no newness of life seems to be present?  It isn’t that all this sinning they are perpetually doing glorifies God’s grace… it’s actually most likely that their hearts are not truly regenerated.  They may have given lip service to God, but they have never repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus.

Christ is the source of our righteousness, not the license for us to sin.  Christ cancels out our sin debt.  Sin’s that were so serious to God that it required the bloodshed of Christ to atone for them.  Christ abolishes sin in our lives and gives us His Spirit so that we can overcome them.

If then, Jesus died to give us a license to sin, then we aren’t truly set free from sin upon salvation are we?  That’s what God’s Word teaches us…