Tuesday, June 23, 2015

You gotta serve someone

(Message Preached May 7th, 2006 at Grace Fellowship Church)
LISTEN Here: http://youtu.be/2zb5GPf_Enw

Thesis: To demonstrate the value of the law in the life of a person, before and after salvation, but without placing it before Grace.

Thanks for allowing me to share once again from God’s Word.  It seems strange to me, but I have a greater weight upon me each time I speak, yet each time I accept, because I feel it’s such an exciting privilege to be able to teach.  The gift of teaching comes with both a joy and a responsibility.  I guess the joy softens the responsibility.  

I want to start out by sharing about the Marathon training and the progress in our gifts to Apaxtla.  I have ran over 68 miles so far since Spring training began!  We have three $26.20 (a total of $78.60) gifts so far, and there is many months of training and giving to go. Julie & I are taking the family there in November during the Thanksgiving holiday.  It will be about 1 month after I make the big run.  We have been planning this trip for some time, and it seems right to do it then, so we can video tape the ministry and report back to the church family how our gifts have impacted God’s work in Mexico.  By the way, the gifts will not be used to pay for the trip!  God has provided for that separately.

One other item of note is respecting the Hike for Life, which is only 6 days away.  I believe that nearly everyone should have a part in this vital ministry to save babies.  Giving financially, hiking, or even volunteering to help out during the Hike itself, we can & are making a HUGE difference.  Years ago, when Julie & I began hiking, our pledges came largely from those within the body.  Today, I receive most of my gifts for the Hike from non-believers, and others.  What this tells me is that the tide is changing regarding Life!

This morning I want to speak on a topic which some of you may feel you know quite well.  And some of you will only have touched upon it lightly. I hope to be giving you a meaty, not a milky message.  Our text is Roman 6:15-23:


What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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? 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, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So what is this relationship between the Law and Grace?  Paul says that we are not under the Law.  Ok.  What does that mean?  I don’t have to follow the law?  What about the famous 10 commandments?  I’m not bound by “Thou shalt not Kill”? What?!  How could this be?  Yet that is what it seems that Paul is saying.  Look again at 15-16, What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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?  So how do I understand this?  .  We need to look at the context, and see if what Paul seems to be saying is what he IS saying.  I define the context by looking at the previous paragraph and chapter.  Does what I see there agree with what Paul has written elsewhere?  Does it agree with the rest of the New Testament writers?  Does it agree with Christ?  Does it agree with the related teachings in the Old Testament?  In short, I’d think twice about something that seems to contradict a great portion of Scripture.  Having said that, What does Paul say elsewhere?

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

In Galatians we read: 2:15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

It seems clear from this that the Law won’t get us into heaven.  But does it have another purpose in our lives?  What is the weight and bearing of the law?  Is there a difference between the Christian and the non-believer with respect to the law?  I read a really neat explanation on the law and how it works in regard to salvation.  Three years ago I read Pilgrims Progress to Benjamin.  This year I began reading it to Christina.  Listen to this:

Then he led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust.  When they had observed it for a moment the Interpreter called for a man to sweep it.  When he began to sweep, the dust rose and filled the whole room so that Christian almost suffocated.  The Interpreter said to a maid who stood by, “Bring water and sprinkle the room,” which she did.  Then the dust settled and the maid swept the room clean.

Christian: What does this signify?

Interpreter:  This parlor is the heart of man that has never been sanctified and cleansed by the grace of God through the gospel.  The dust is his original sin and corruption that have defiled the whole man.  The man who began to sweep at first is the law. The maid who brought the water and finished the job is the gospel. The man, though working with all his might, could not clean the room; he only stirred up the dust and made it worse to live in.  This shows you that the law, by its working, instead of cleansing the heart from sin, only revives sin, causes sin to show it’s strength, and increase it’s activity in the soul.  Though it discovers and forbids sin, it does not give the life and power to subdue it. So man cannot of himself give up his sin, without first receiving divine life and help from above.  This is why the maid came, sprinkled the room with water, and cleaned it with all ease, to show you that when the gospel of Christ comes to the heart, with all it’s sweet and gracious influence, new life comes in, sin is subdued and vanquished, and the soul is made clean by simple faith in Christ.  Consequently, man is made fit for the habitation of the King of Glory.[1]

 
Isn’t that a great way to describe the work of the law in a person’s life?  The Law does not enable us to gain entrance to His throne room.  As a matter of fact, nothing we could do will give us this access.  We can’t earn it.  But we still have the question of how the law works in regard to a believer.  Is there a different action here?  Listen to this passage from Jeremiah: 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”[2]

He says, “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts”  This is the new covenant folks.  The law is still relevant, but it isn’t necessarily the Mosaic Law.  We might call this Moral law, or even the law of our conscious.  Listen to what Ezekiel says: And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.”[3]   And also: 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[4]

So the Lord will cause us to walk in His statutes and be careful to obey His rules.  Is this legalism?  Legalism is simply the placing of rules, God’s 1st and then man’s rules, before the relationship.  You know what I heard from the Lord through Ezekiel?  I heard a compassionate God who is loving and interested in our relationship to Him.  What is the point of this talk of a heart of flesh replacing a heart of stone?  A stone is rigid, unable to change.  For God, that’d be just fine,  Since He never changes.  In fact, we call our God a Rock in many places in the Scripture.  Jesus is the chief cornerstone and the like.  But for man it would be disastrous.  We do get stubborn don’t we?  Imagine if we never were willing to reconsider the arguments?  If we all made up our minds and never were humble enough to consider that we could be wrong, there’d be some mighty poor decisions made.  Some could be lost forever! 


The earlier Ezekiel passage gives the reason that God is giving them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.  Also, 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  It appears that we do have a duty to perform as believers.  Though the Mosaic law is not the question any longer, it looks to me that we do have work to do, though the work is not to gain favor with Him.  Rather, now that we have this heart of flesh, it is out of gratitude for the Lord, love for our God for the great things he has done for us that we are to work.  Theologian A. W.Pink says this, So far from law and grace being enemies, they are mutual handmaids: the former reveals the sinner's need, the latter supplies it; the one makes known God's requirements, the other enables us to meet them. Faith is not opposed to good works, but performs them in obedience to God out of love and gratitude.[5]

Just one other point of warning to those among us who may never have received the heart of flesh our God offers, listen again to Ezekiel, 21 But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.  Isaiah says it like this, 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.[6]

Getting back to Romans, 6:16  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? 

So there is a choice here to make, be a slave to sin or be a slave to obedience, but not obedience to the Mosaic Law exclusively, rather the good deeds the Spirit put in your hearts to do.  It’s easy to ignore Him isn’t it though.  Your just walking along minding your own business when bam!  Out of the blue He speaks.  “Not right now Lord! I was just getting to lunch.  If I do that I’ll miss lunch altogether! Ohh!“  It is that selfish attitude which pushes Him aside.  “I’m gonna do His ministry My way and if He doesn’t like it…”  Pretty soon you stop hearing him.  Bob Dylan says it like this, {Play Serve Somebody Clip}

It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord,  Slavery to sin leads to service for the Devil.  You have to choose.  Paul continues his discussion in vs. 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, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  Did you notice one thing? Our slavery is absolute.  We are either slaves to sin and free from righteous living, or we are slaves to righteousness and free from sin.  In our country I believe we are learning one thing, due to the wars in recent years, Freedom is never Free.  And the same goes with regard to sin and righteousness.  Freedom from the penalty of sin does not mean freedom to commit sin. Freedom from the penalty for sin does not mean freedom from the consequences of sin.  Freedom & slavery are the opposites which tug at our lives.  Freedom from sin but slaves to righteousness, or Freedom from righteousness, yet slaves to sin. 

Looking at Philippians, we read, 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.[7]  Paul tells us that it is God who works in us for His good pleasure.  Paul says our work is a witness to be like lights in a dark world.  Then he describes his own experience in this matter.  He is willing to yield all to Christ for the sake of our faith.  Are you ready to pour your own life out as a sacrifice to the Lord?  In Romans 12 Paul says we are to be living sacrifices.  Though the idea of the sacrificial system and the altars and such is part of the statement, what he is saying is that we need to yield our lives to the Lord.  Give over your hearts to Him who saved you! 

Verse 19-20 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. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Folks did your realize your sanctification was on the line?  Let me back up.  I hate it when someone tells me all about something, without defining it for me.  Sanctification is simply the state of becoming or being more separate for Him.  Another way of putting it would be becoming more Christ-like.  Being a more godly man or woman.  Present your members as slaves to righteousness.  Listen to how Christ explains it, “ John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.[8]  Who among us really hates his own life?  What does that mean anyway?  It means to despise the things of the world enough that we don’t value or esteem them.  

Is Christ and his ministries tugging at your heart?  Are you wiling to listen and act on His call?  Or do you love all this world has to offer more than Him.  Does serving the Lord seem inconvenient?  Perhaps it won’t seem so if I read another passage, 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. [9]

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  What fruit were you getting?  The fruit of sin is ultimately death.  The result of the fruit of slavery to God leads to sanctification, there’s that word again.  We become more godly people when we yield to Him in our life.  And did you note the wages of Sin?  How about the fact that we don’t get wages for our slavery to God.  But we do get eternal life nevertheless!

I’d like to read just a couple more passages:

Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. 20 It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[10]   This is how it’s done folks.  We give up our life.  Yield our wants, our desires, even the smallest ones.  Give them all to Jesus.  Let Him be your guide. 

Finally, Joshua had this challenge: Josh24:14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.[11]

There are many ways to serve the Lord.  The Hike for Life next Saturday is one example.  Setting aside our plans for those of the Lord’s.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Let’s Pray.



[1] Bunyan, John. Pilgrims Progress In Today’s English: 1964 . Chicago: Moody Publishers.
[2]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jer. 31:31). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[3]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eze 11:18). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[4]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eze 36:23). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[5] Pink, Arthur W.. The Authur Pink Anthology
[6]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Is 64:6). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[7]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Php 2:12). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[8]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 12:20). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[9]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 13:12). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[10]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ga 2:15). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
[11]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jos 24:14). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.

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