Malachi 2:17-3:5 Part 2 Gods Response to Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Pt 2

Gods Response to Sin

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. And if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one on the back table as our gift to you.

So, as we turn to Malachi, we are going to continue looking at the same passage we looked at last week. And the theme covering both weeks is “Response to Sin.” Last week, essentially, we looked at out own response to sin. We either justify it, both in ourselves and others, saying that God is ok with sin, because… whatever. Or we look around and figure that God is not going to respond to sin because we don’t see him responding to it around us right now.

But we see in this passage that God will indeed respond to sin, indeed he has to. But we will look at the two ways that the LORD responds to sin. One of the things that I didn’t mention last week the book of Malachi is especially showing us, and we say it some in Romans as well, we see it through out the scriptures, is that the Chapter breaks and the verse numbers are not inerrant. They were developed and inserted into the text much later. The chapter breaks were designed and inserted in the 1200s, and the verse numbers were inserted in the 15th and 16th centuries, for the Old and the New testament Respectively.

This section is a section that fits together overreaching the chapter break that was put in there. The Chapters and the verse are incredibly useful and they are a gift from God, to allow us to memorize certain sections of scripture even to locate and find certain passages easier than if it was just one long paper, book or letter with no markations. So, I also don’t want you to hear that the chapter and verse breaks are bad. Of course they are not. But, we can also remember that they are not infallible, it is the Words of God that are infallible.

So, we will go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:17-3:5 and we will look at what the Work of God says. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 2, verse 17, through Malachi chapter 3, verse 5.

God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi says:

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

So, in chapter 2, verse 17, where we spent most of our time last week, we see how we, how you and I respond to sin, as I explained in the beginning. And starting in Chapter 3, verse 1, we see how God is going to respond to sin, and in fact, from our perspective of time, how he already has.

All through out the Old testament, God has been preparing his covenant people for a coming Messiah, a savior. One who would, as God foretold back in Genesis 3:15, one who would crush the head of the enemy.

See, because of the Holiness of God, sin is not something that He can overlook or ignore. It is an affront to his holiness, his character, his God-ness. RC Sproul refers to sin as Cosmic Treason. And so, something has to be done about it. One of the things we also see in Genesis 3, specifically in verse 21, it says,  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Seems nondescript and innocuous enough, right?

But if we look at what’s going on here, we see that Adam and Eve had been naked and unashamed in the Garden. After their sin, the realized they were naked and they were very ashamed. Now, there’s a whole lot we could get into there, but the point we are looking at today is that God made them clothes to cover themselves. And what were those clothes made of? It says out of skins. It took the death of the animal. Adam and Eves sin caused the death of an animal just like it cause death to enter into this world. This is the first instance and example of our sin requiring blood, requiring death to atone for it, to pay for it.

So, our sin requires a blood payment to make things right. Paul tells us famously that the wages of sin is death. The problem is that our sinful blood, our death is not enough to cover our sins. And even if it was, it would only cover sins that had already been committed, it would not cover sins yet to come. So, after Adam brought sin in to the world, and through Adam we have all sinned, Romans 5 something or rather, we have become separated from the goodness and holiness of God. Our relationship with him is broken. And we have no ability to reconcile it, no hope of fixing our relationship, no chance of making things right with him. Gods holiness, his fairness demands that he respond to sin by punishing sin, by pouring his just and holy wrath out on it.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Fair would send everyone to Hell. You dont want fair, you want Mercy.” And we see Gods mercy even back in the garden when he made the clothes for Adam and Eve. Yes, Had to expel them from the garden, and yes, death was required, but don’t miss that even in that, God made clothes for them and provided them with the means to make clothes for themselves. God reached out in mercy and provided for them what they couldn’t provide for them selves.

And He has promised the One who could do for us what we cant do for ourselves. The One who would restore our broken relationship with God, who would save us from the consequences of our sin, who would be mercy to those who need mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament, God sent a series of prophets, speaking His Words. Most of their primary purpose was to call Israel to repent of their sins, to turn back to God and through that, they also prophesied and prepared the way for the coming savior.

Remember that Malachi is the last of the prophets that we have in the Old Testament. Now, Israel didn’t know that at the time, they didn’t know that Malachi would be the last one to hear from God for over 400 years. They didn’t know that the next prophet of God would be the one whose main purpose was to prepare the way, a prophet whom Isaiah 40:3, calls “A voice cries: in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

John the Baptist is this prophet that God was foretelling. He was a prophet in the order of Elijah. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he was the one whom who introduce the world to the Savior. The Gospel of John records in John 1:29, John the Baptist saying, of Jesus, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Johns’ Message, as Matthews Gospel records is ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom at hand because The Son of God have arrived. Jesus of Nazareth was the promised, the foretold, the prophesied messiah and Savior. God became man to save sinners. Jesus said, in Mark 1:15; The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

One of the things we need to see and recognize is that there are two ways to read the scriptures. And some of the differences we can have in our theology can come from which of these two hermeneutics we use.

The question is, how do we understand, how we filter the things that are not crystal clear. Do we filter what we read in the New Testament by what the Old Testament says? Or Do we interpret the mysteries and the prophecies, the promises that God has made through what the New Testament says. I contend that the Bible itself and the writers of the New Testament use the New Testament to explain and interpret the Old Testament. And this explains parts of why Jesus did not look like what Israel was expecting the Messiah to look like. It helps explain the confusion over who the messenger was that would prepare the way for the Messiah and who John the Baptist was. It explains a lot about the blind eyes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders in the Gospels.

It also means that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Malachi writes that after the messenger, another messenger will come, the LORD who comes to his temple, the messenger of the covenant. He is coming, says the LORD of Hosts.

And he is coming, as the fulfillment of prophecy, as the fulfillment of types and shadows, in this case, as the fulfillment of the temple. He is coming because someone needs to be held accountable for our sin. Someone needs to pay the price of atoning for our sins. Some one needs to shed blood and pay with their life for our sins. That’s how serious our sin is. If we don’t understand that, we can never truly appreciate Jesus.

It is either us that has to be held accountable for our sin, or we give it all to Jesus. For those whom He has called, Jesus has already been held accountable for our sin. He has already paid the price for our sin. He paid by shedding his blood and dying on the cross, so that our sins may be forgiven. He rose from the dead to prove his dominion over sin and death in eternity past, present and future.

He is coming. In Malachi’s context, this was mainly talking about His first coming. His Incarnation. God became Man. Immanuel, God with us. He came, he lived, he never sinned though he was tempted in all ways. Hebrews 4:15, says it this way: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

One of the things we dont tend to see as much anymore in the church is Creeds and Confessions. These were used through out all the denominations of the coarse of the history of the church and were essentially used to boil things down to the essentials. In the minds of the people, or groups of people, of councils of learned men, they wrote these things to have a line in the sand, basically, against what is needed to be believe in order to be a Christian. I want to eventually find a way to incorporate some of these moving forward, but that’s neither here nor there and is also a long term goal. All of that to say that I love what the Nicene Creed says about Jesus, God the Son:

One Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And that last line there, he shall come again with glory. He will judge the living and the dead. And his kingdom will have no end. He will come again and when he does, none will be able to stand against him. When Jesus comes back, we will all stand before him and give an account for our sins. We will be separated, as we looked a few weeks ago, separated in to the sheep and the goats. Scriptures talks elsewhere about the wheat and tares, growing together, entangled and not able to be identified as separate or different. (Matthew 13:24-30) And in that parable, what is it that ends up separating them? Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:30:  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

And who can stand against him? None will be able to. From those of us who are falling on our faces, worshipping him, to those who thought they did enough good works to be surprised at their rejection, (Matthew 7:21-23) to those who have spent their lives fighting against him, Paul writes in Philippians 2:10-11:  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the LORD will come as a Refining fire. And thats a relief if we understand it correctly. The LORD is not coming as just any fire. John Piper describes the fire this way:

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

God is doing a good work in us. He is working all things for our good, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) All of his creation will be refined. This earth will be put through his refining fire. And all the impurities, all the sin, all the chaos and corruption will be burned away, leaving the New Heavens and the New Earth and God dwelling with his people, our concept of Heaven. Where will spend eternity in our glorified, physical bodies, (1 Corinthians 15)

And this is where we will enter into true, perfect, pleasing worship of God. Jesus tells us the woman at the well, in John 4:23&24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Paul appeals to us in Romans 12:1, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is our offering in righteousness, this is our offering of Judah and Jerusalem that will be pleasing to the LORD. This is the side of mercy and grace of God. Jesus Christ, God becomes man to save sinners. To save you and I. And If you have been called, if you have been clothed in Christs righteousness instead of trusting in our own, we get to partake in this gift of eternal life with him.

But God isnt done here. Not all are called Children of God. Johns Gospel, chapter 1, verses 12 & 13:  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

God says that those who do not trust in him, who do not receive His Son will receive the full force of his wrath and holiness. Look at the last verse of our section in Malachi here, Malachi 3:5: Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Those who do not fear Him, or those who say that every who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD. Those who live in and love and partake in the sins of this world, the desires of our flesh. Our heart breaks for these and grieves theses people. These are often our close friends, our close family, people that are incredibly important to us, whom we love so much. And Revelation 20:15 says if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Hell is real, it is hot and eternity is a long time. Today, and hopefully every day, we beg, plead and pray, that if you have not received Jesus Christ, not recognized that he is the way and the only way to true, eternal life, please, now is the time. Please believe the Gospel, please believe in and receive in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and turn to the One True God. After this life, there are no second chances and we can never know when this life will end. Salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Your goodness, your morals, even your church attendance, cannot save you. Only Christ can do that. Please.

For those of us who have been delivered from the eternal punishment of our sins, today is a day we rejoice and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that w have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, every first Sunday of the Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettyness, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But, We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Malachi 2:10-16 Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenan

Malachi 2:10-16

Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenant

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Malachi, chapter 2. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

This week we are looking at a much smaller chunk of the Malachi than we have over the last two weeks. Malachi was written during, but towards the end of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. We see some of the same issues pop up here in Malachi has Ezra and Nehemiah addressed in their books.

And this section today was written because Israel was failing to follow what God had made clear to them regarding marriage. They have been breaking Gods commands in to explicit ways. First, we will look at in verses 10-12, they have been taking women for wives that had been off limits to them. Second, in verses 13-16, that had been divorcing their wives, against what God had been telling them.

But we are also going to look at the relationship between Gods covenant with his people, those who belong to him, those whom have been saved by grace, through faith, and the covenant of marriage that God has given to mankind as a gift and as a way to see His goodness and His love. Now, this is not your typical sermon on marriage. This is not 7 ways to have a great Marriage or anything like that. This is about God, his love, his covenant with his bride, his people, the church, you and I.

So, now we are going to go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:10-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi, chapter 2, verses 10- 16. God, speaking through his prophet, says:

 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

All right, so we start off, brieflyy, with something so simple, yet so foundational that it needs to be repeated and retaught and reminded of time and time again. God is our Father. He is the Father of All Believers, He is the creator of all, If you are not a believer, a Christian, you are not considered a child of God because you are not an heir to the Kingdom, a co heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)

And as our Father, he is faithful in his Word to all. He has establish a covenant with his Children, summarized and represented by Israel in the Old Testament and summarized and represented by the Church in the New Testament. He has established a covenant of grace, by which he saves his children, offers forgiveness of their sins. He works in us to change us from death to life and to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

And as we see throughout the scriptures and throughout history, God gives us ways to see greater truths. He has given us examples, types and shadows to help us better understand Gods truths. In this case, we see that God gave us the gift of marriage, in part, to help us understand and to see Gods covenant with us. He has given us this gift to help us relate to it and as an example to follow.

I want to touch on real quick, some of the difficulties we have when we read through the Old Testament. I think we can all be honest here right? The Old Testament is not as easy to read through and apply accurately as the New Testament. We tend to make one of two mistakes, or sometimes both actually.

The first tendency we can fall into is that we can over spiritualize what we are reading. We remove the historical reality of the stories in the Old Testament. We forget that these were real live people, in real live circumstances. Nothing has context and the only meaning of the text is allegorical for today, for modern day believers. It ends up being less, “What does Gods Word say?” and more, “What is God revealing to me individually, for my individual life?”

The second mistake we make, the second tendency we fall into is the over moralizing of the text. It puts the context back, but removes God as its author in this sense. It has no types, shadows or looking forward to Jesus Christ or the Church, but is essentially a guide book, a bunch of examples of good and bad, of right and wrong. It ignores the fact that the Bible is one unified book, with one unified story, the story of Gods redemption plan of us. It ignores that God has been pointing toward the coming Messiah and Savior since the beginning of the Bible, with the first prophecy of Jesus being in Genesis 3.

Both of those, on their own are wrong. The Old Testament is both of those and it is so much more than that. These are real, literal people, in real, literal events. The Old Testament is God telling a story, His Story, through real life history, The people and the stories are just as real as you and I sitting here.

And so our challenge is, as we read through the sections of the Old testament is to balance those two things, not  over spiritualize it and to not over moralize it, but to read the Truth of Gods Word and to pull out what God has intended to share with us.

One of the biggest themes in Malachi, one of the biggest things He has intended to communicate with us is showing how Israel has broken the covenant that was established between God and Israel. And as God is pointing this out to them, he is reminding them of who He is. In Malachi 1:2, He makes it clear,  I have loved you,” says the Lord. He has loved them and has been faithful and He has kept His end of the covenant. He is a God of His Word.

But in Malachi 2, verses 10-12, we see that Israel has broken their end of the covenant. You dont have to read much of the Old Testament to Israel breaking their covenant one way or another. In this instance, Israel breaks their Covenant with the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God if Israel, the God of the Bible, they break their covenant by marrying foreign women.

Now, to clarify what the issue is here, we can point to most obviously the book of Ruth to see that it is not simply the fact that these foreign women were born somewhere outside of Israel that is the issue. This is not about nationality, ethnicity or anything else like that. What the issue here is that the women that the Israelites were marrying were worshipping foreign gods. They were not within, but were outside of the covenant with God. They were not following or worshipping the True God of Israel.

We are reminded that Malachi was a later contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Coing at the end of their ministries, Malachi has seen what Ezra and Nehemiah have had to deal with. We saw specifically, but not limited to Ezra 9 & 10, and in Nehemiah 13 that they too had to deal with the Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem with foreign wives and marrying foreign wives once they have returned as well.

Some of them had multiple wives as well. We see that this unbiblical practice went all the way back to Genesis 4. Genesis 4:19, it records that Lamech took two wives, the first instance of polygamy in the Bible. Unfortunately, it would not be the last, as we see even otherwise Godly men such as Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon having multiple, and in some cases, many wives.

As we bring these things together, I want to read the first few verses of the 10 commandments as recorded in Exodus chapter 20. Verses 1-3 read:

 And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

There is One, True God, and there is only One True God. God created marriage to mirror this point, that we are to marry one person, and only one person. One man, one woman. And that we are intended to marry only someone who worships the One True God, as we do.

This principal continues on and is shown that it applies to us today by showing up in the New Testament as well. We see this in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul writes: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And while thats not the limit for what it means, this is, in part, referring to having the same spiritual views as the one that we will marry.

RC Sproul gives us some insight as to why, saying, “Intimacy at its deepest dimension is impossible when the partners are not united in faith.”

Our faith should be the foundation of your entire identity. It should the foundation of who you are. And if you dont and/or cant share that with your spouse then you wont be able to have the deepest connection that God has desired for you.

And in this, we see the parallels between Gods covenant and relationship with us and with the covenant and intention of marriage. God doesnt want us to have a casual relationship with him. He doesnt want us to like him. He doesnt want us to come to him only when its convenient or when we are in trouble. He wants all of us all the time. And thats how we are supposed to be with our spouses as well.

Now, does this mean that two non believers cant be married and have a happy, a faithful, and a long lasting marriage? Does that mean that a believer and a non believer cant be married and have a happy, faithful, and long lasting marriage? Of Course not! As many of you can attest, either personally or by those who are close to you, family, friends and the like.

We see all around us, through Gods common grace, that people can have a happy, successful marriage without both being completely and solely focused on Christ. But its not how God intended it. Just like if Someone says they are a Christian, but never reads their Bible. The intimacy in the relationship will never be able to be as deep and as complete as its supposed to be.

And so we worship One God, the True God and we are intended to become one with someone we can share that worship with. Now, scripture also addresses how to respond if we find ourselves in a situation which was not the intended ideal. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, starting in the middle of verse 12:

if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

If you are married, you are married. Dont throw away what you have to try and go back in time. God uses all things for good, more specifically, for his glory. Romans 8:28 Paul says here that we are never to give up hope that an unbelieving spouse may come to know the LORD, whether partly or mostly from our lives we are living, loving and living with them, modeling the love of Christ and the dedication to Christ that we are to have.

God hates divorce. We are to worship only the One True God and we are to marry one our one spouse. One God enters into a covenant with us and we are to enter into a covenant with only one partner. Gods covenant is never ending. The Jesus storybook Bible calls it an Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

Once we are in covenant with Him, we are sealed into that covenant with the Holy Spirit. That covenant is salvation. Salvation from the consequences of our sin, from the failure to keep our end of the covenant, from failing to live up to the perfect and Holy Standard that One true and perfect God has set. That salvation is by grace alone. The vehicle that grace is poured out is by faith alone. The object of that faith is in Jesus Christ alone.

Once the Holy Spirit has sealed us in the covenant with God, it is forever. It is unbreakable and it is permanent. In the same way, as a shadow of that covenant, our marriage covenants are intended to be unending, unbroken and full of grace being given to sinners.

Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And we see teachings and directions about how to model that love to our spouses. One such example is Ephesians 5:22-33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Again, we see that Marriage was an incredible gift that God has given to us. In Genesis 2:24, God says:  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh Men, you and your wife are one flesh. Women, you and your husband are one flesh. We are to love and serve each other in the manner that Christ has loved and served us.

You may have often heard that marriage is designed not to make us happy, but to make us Holy. And that is true, and its true because marriage is designed to help us to see God more clearly. It is designed for us lean on God more intensely, more dependently, because those things Paul just listed in Ephesians 5, we cant do those with out the help of God. Marriage is designed to remind us of Gods love, his service and his sacrifice.

Marriage is designed to be the human equivalent of the covenant that God has established with his people, his church, his bride. Exodus 34:6 & 7 is one of my favorite parts where God speaks his covenant, saying to Moses:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty,

Marriage is not always easy. Fights will take place. Arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings… Both parties of a marriage are still sinners and they are now thrown in super close proximity to each other. Those faults and sins will manifest themselves and often.

With God, only one side is sinful. Thats our side. Our sin will manifest itself and often. We will misunderstand God. We will argue with God. We will walk away or puch him away. But he will never leave. He will never forsake us. He will never abandon or break his covenant with us and that deserves our full and everlasting praise and thanks.

I also love the way that John Piper sums up this passage, writing:

He is the God of Israel. The fellowship may be broken. There may be exile and separation. There may be anger and tears. But when whole story is told, the sum of the matter is Isaiah 54:4–8:

Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

God will never nullify his marriage to the elect. Christ will never forsake his bride, the church. He is a covenant maker and a covenant keeper. And that is the meaning of marriage.

Lets Pray

Romans 12:3-8 Gods Gifts of Grace

Romans 12:3-8

Gifts of God’s Grace

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and open them to Romans chapter 12. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to a Bible from the back table there as our gift to you. One of our convictions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Bible , Gods Word in to as many hands as possible.

Romans chapter 12 marks a change in tone, a change in direction of what Paul is writing in this letter. He has focused, mostly, in the first 11 chapters on why we need saving, (All have sinned, Romans 3:23), who does the saving, (Christ alone, Romans 6:23) and how we are saved, (by grace through faith, through the hearing of the Word, Romans 10:17). Now Paul shifts a bit and focuses on what we do, how we act and how we live AFTER we are saved.

I was talking to a friend this week. He was struggling with something and he asked me for some scripture. I recommended a portion of this beginning section in Romans chapter 12. He read it and made me so proud when we wrote this back to me. He said: “But then, because context, I read all of Romans 12, and that is like a step action plan for being a good Christian.” Ahhh, context. And he is right of course.

For the most part, the rest of Paul’s letter to the Romans is the practical, everyday living, how to guide for living a Christian life. But its important to remember the context as well, both immediate and big picture. As we get ready to look at Romans 12:3-8, I’m going to read it with verses 1& 2 as well, because its important to remember the immediacy of what Paul is writing. No scripture exists in a vacuum.

So without further ado, lets read the text this morning. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, Romans 12, and reading verses 1-8. Paul writes:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[f] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Paul lays out a lot here, but real quick, I want to emphasis that Paul doesn’t just put his letters into two parts; Theology and Application. Instead, He puts them in that order on purpose. Because one flows from another. Paul is saying that the Christian life is dependent on the great Christian doctrines.” (Morris) A changed heart, changed from stone to flesh by the Holy Spirit is the only way that we can do the things that Paul is telling us about.

John the Baptist told his followers in John 3:27, A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” Paul was quite clear earlier in Romans that this included our changed heart. This includes the renewal by the transforming of our mind mentioned in v 2. Paul is showing us in verse 3 that his entire ministry, but in and of itself, but also because of the change that had to occur in him, his entire ministry is due to Gods grace. And from that, all that he is going to be talking about going forward is due fully and solely to Gods grace.

Paul’s words to us in this letter and his others that we have collected in the Bible are given to us by the grace of God; inspired, inerrant and sufficient. And it its interesting to me that we start this section, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, where Paul, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, talks about the practical how to, he talks about things that we either should already be doing or need to start doing and we come upon this at the beginning of a new year when many people are trying to reset, where many people make resolutions, where we are focused on what we can do better in 2019 than we did in 2018.

And Paul starts that off with looking to God, his grace and his mercy. From that, he challenges us and the first one is pretty difficult. V 3, he writes to each of us, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

The focus here is that none of us are better than any of the others. Thats hard to admit sometimes. None of us are better than those sitting around us. None of us are better than those who are not here. Especially in the context of what Paul has established. We didnt and can’t do anything to merit, to warrant or to get Gods grace and mercy.

Paul established early on in chapter 1 (18-32) of Romans, what our natural sinful condition is without Christ. In chapter 2, (v 11) he says, God shows no partiality. Chapter 3 (v23) he makes it clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And as we have seen emphasized over the last couple of chapters, we also see that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter your sins, your previous lifestyle, your ethnicity, your race, your social and economic standing, that all who repent and believe the Gospel are welcomed and adopted into Gods Family.

We also see Paul writing to the Ephesians (2:1-10) that one of the points of grace and salvation being a free gift is so that no one may boast, or using the language here in Romans, the point is so that we may not think too highly of ourselves.

And so, don’t think too highly of your self. Look with sober judgment. Think with clear thought. You are no better than I. You are no better than the person sitting next to you. You are no better than the person sitting at a bar right now, or a strip club, or even one working in them. Neither am I. I’m not better than anyone. I don’t deserve anything that God has gifted me with and none of the rest of us do either. We have all sinned, all committed cosmic treason against the universal, all-knowing, all-powerful, Holy God. None of us deserve anything other than eternity of Gods wrath being poured out on us.

But that’s not the only side to this. But think with sober judgment. What else does the Bible say about you. You are an image bearer of God. (Gen 1:27) There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1) You are a forgiven sinner (1 John 1:9) You are an adopted son (or daughter) of God (Galatians 2:26). You are being conformed in to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). You are a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2) and God loved you enough that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16).

So we think with sober judgment. We are no better than each other. Do not think of yourself as higher than you ought. And to back this up and to give a practical example, Paul start talking about some of the gifts in the church. And remember, he is talking about these gifts and the body of Christ in the context of humility and thinking soberly.

There is one body of Christ. That is the Church. There are many members of that body. Each and every one of us individually who are in Christ. There is one body and many body parts, each with various and different gifts and purposes. We are different. We are not uniform. We are not Stepford. We are not all the same. Even in this room, how many different spiritual and religious backgrounds? How many different ethnicities within our blood? How many different careers and economic background and situations?

We are not all the same. God likes diversity. He is a creative God. But though we are all different in just about every way possible. We are all one under the cross of Jesus Christ. We are all different members of this one body. We are all vital to the cause of a mission of the body. None of us earned our spot, but we were all chosen, and all for different reasons and purposes.

And Paul says  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility to use the gifts we have. We have a responsibility to serve the church and each other. We have a responsibility not to do what someone else is gifted in and we are not. We have a responsibility to show grace to each other just as God showed grace to us.

John Wesley said that “Gifts are many, grace is one.” And the gifts that we are given and have a responsibility to use are given for the purpose of helping the body of Christ, the Church, helping it function the way God desires. And they are given and are to be used, not to promote ourselves, because again, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Using whatever gifts we were given by God is one of the ways that we can show love to each other and how we can show love to God. AS I was preparing this sermon, it dawned on me that the 5 Love Languages might be a good analogy here. DO you know what those are?

It was from a gentleman named Gary Chapman and he wrote a book, appropriately named, The 5 Love Languages. And what it is, essentially is that each of us naturally show love to those around us in certain ways. We tend to do it in one of the 5 ways. These 5 Love Languages are Words of Affirmation, Service, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each of us is stronger at showing love to others in one of those ways. But that’s not always the same way that you receive love the best. If you, for example, receive love, if you feel loved if someone spends quality time with you, but someone else, shows love the best by giving words of affirmation, then you both need to work on that.

These things are extremely helpful if you are able to recognize which ways you show love and receive love. And it’s also helpful to get to know those around you enough to know how they show and receive love.

God has given us gifts to use to show love to each other and to God Himself. We show love to God by obeying his commands and following what he tells us. (1 John 5:3) And so, we show our love to God, in one way, by using our gifts that he gave and using them for the purposes that he gave them to us for.

And we use our gifts to love each other around us as well. And in so doing, we need to be sober-minded and clear thinking about not only our own gifts, but on what each others gifts both are and are not.

We have to be careful not to assign to much to certain people. We have to be careful not to assume that some have a certain gifting because they have another gifting. Our human brains like to catalog and categorize what we see as similar things and put them together. Lets use preaching and teaching as an example. In our human minds, those are tied together. If you have one, you will have the other. And often, if you have the gift of preaching, you will also have the gift of teaching. But not always, and not necessarily so. We have to be careful not to assume because one has one gift, that they automatically have another that is closely related. If we make those assumptions and we are wrong, we fail to love that person and we put them, not in a position to do good for God and the Body of Christ, but they will actually do harm. Be sober-minded about your own gifts and about the gifts of those around us as well.

But the other thing that we see Paul saying here, in some of his language, is that, while we are to be sober-minded about our gifts, we should grab hold of them and embrace them, dive in whole heartedly.

Generosity, Zeal, Cheerfulness. According to your faith. Now, I don’t think that term is in reference to the amount of faith that you have, as it can be read. It’s possible it could refer to the ever-growing, deepening of our faith, our continual growth whereby we grow from infants feeding on milk and we mature to feeding on meat. Thats possible, but I think it refers to just our faith. Use your gift according to you faith. If you have faith, then use the gift God gave you in his grace and mercy. If you believe, use your gifts. Thats how I read that phrase.

And we see too, that using our gifts is, in fact, one of the ways that we present ourselves as living sacrifices (12:2) We live out his will for us. This is his perfect will.

And that takes discerning, both figuring out our gifts and how to use them and figuring our Gods Will. But his will is that we figure it out and we use them.

I want you to notice that this list of gifts here are not an exhaustive list. There are numerous lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament and none of them are exhaustive. They, just like all the rest of scripture need to be looked at in context.

Paul is laying out how we work and live together in humility, in love and in unity. And he tells us to do it all the way. The principle he is laying out here is the same as he mentions in 2 Corinthians, that God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

How you discern your gifts, how you discern how to use them, what attitude and personality you use them with, these are marks of spiritual growth and of sanctification. The point of this passage here, what Paul is writing, is not to make you ask what your spiritual gift is, though that is something that you need to be considering.

The point of this passage, instead is to pursue love, humility and unity. The point of this passage is serve others and to serve the church. The point of this passage is to serve God, with all your soul strength and mind (Luke 10:27).

It is with those motivations, those desires, it is by doing that that God will reveal your gifts and that you will find what it is that God has given you. You may or may not consciously realize what they are. Sooner or later, growing in Christ and growing in sanctification, whether you realize it or not, you will be using your gifts.

You may not know what your gifts are and still might be already using them. There was one lady I knew, she was constantly worried because she didn’t know what her gifting was. She was worried that she was not doing what God had for her. She was worried she wasnt obeying God. But she was. She was serving the church and she was decorating, she was crafting, she was making gifts, organizing the potlucks. She contributed in generosity and she served according to the faith God graced her with. You may not now what your gifts are, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t already serving in the way that God has called you.

Hers the bottom line in what Paul is writing here. Give your all to God. Serve him and his church in what ever way you can. It is your spiritual worship. Do it for the right reasons. Do it for God, giving yourself as a living sacrifice. Do it with humility and compassion, with a transformed mind. Try different methods of service, different areas. Not all will pan out, but it will help discern the will of God for you. And lastly, remember, always and foremost;

It’s all given by God, by the grace of God, by the mercies of God. It’s all from him. Not one of us, not one of our gifts are above another. And we do all that we do in pursuance of love and unity.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.

We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Romans 7:14-25 The Struggle Is Real

Editors Note: I am having issues with my phone this afternoon. I have the sermon recorded, but due to technical difficulties, (i.e. children throwing phones on hard surfaces) I am not able to get the sermon from the phone to anywhere. If this gets resolves, I will upload the sermon and edit this post. Thank you for your understanding.

New edit: After all this time, my phone was fixed and I was able to the sermon audio  off the phone and onto the computer. Here it goes!

Romans 7:13-25

The Struggle is Real

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and open them to Romans chapter 7. If you do not have a Bible with you there should be one under your seat or a seat nearby. If you do not own a Bible, we have a pile of black Bibles on the back table that we would be honored to have be our gift to you.

Now, if you are anything like me, Paul is an interesting writes. He has times of forceful, upfront bluntness. There is no mistaking, no misunderstanding, no confusing what he is saying. We saw many of those moments in the first few chapters of Romans. Other times, he waxes poetic, talking theology and philosophy and different things that can be hard to understand. For me, at times, trying to follow one of his sentences can give me a head ache at times.

I think we have a combination of those two things here this morning. Paul is clear about what he is saying in general, but to try and follow along his sentences, and it can get kind of confusing. But his overall point is clear and one that, I believe that hits each of us right in the gut. Then again, maybe your all just better Christians than I.

But before we jump into the text, lets put the passage in its proper context. Sin is bad. Sin is breaking Gods laws. We have all broken Gods laws. We have all sinned. Therefore, none of us deserve or have or can earn our way into eternal life with God. No so called good works we do can have any affect or our eternal standing before God. We stand before guilty. And God is a just God, so guilt must be dealt with. But God is also a God of Grace and mercy, so gives a gift of grace. By Grace alone have we been saved. Because God said so. And the vehicle he uses to deliver that grace is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.

By Grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The law has no effect on our salvation. Instead, if you have been saved, you were created to do good works that God had plans for you since before the beginning of the world. Jesus says if you love me, keep my commandments. SO, we have an obligation to live out the commands, the law of God.

And yet, we dont have the ability, especially on our own to fulfill the law. Thats why Jesus came, to fulfill the Law as he says in Matthew 5. He had the righteousness required to satisfy a Holy God. On the cross, that righteousness was imputed on to the aforementioned those who have received grace by faith. Now, our legal standing has changed from guilty, for All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, to now, God looks at us and as we stand before him, covered in Christs righteousness, he declares us innocent.

And that, my friends is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It is the point of our transformation and our regeneration. It is the point where the Holy Spirit comes in and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. And thats when we are freed from the bondage of sin and the weight of the law. Thats when we are free to live our lives the way that God intended and Christ allowed and the holy Spirit intended.

Thats the beginning of our journey. The hardest work, the work of salvation is done, and by no effort of ours. But there is hard work ahead of us. Living the life that Christ has freed us to live. To follow him and his commandments. And its both as easy as that and as hard as that. But before we get into that, lets go ahead and read our passage this morning, as Paul shows us from his personal example that we continue to struggle with our sin nature, even after we have been freed from its bondage.

So Im going to read Romans chapter 7, verses 13 through the end of the chapter, verse 25. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version. Romans 7:13-25.

Paul, starting by talking about the law, writes:

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

So remember the context of Romans 7. The law is designed by God and it is good. It is there to be a mirror and reflect our inability to keep it. It is there to diagnose the disease of sin and point to the cure. The one who is able to keep the law, Jesus Christ. Paul has shared that we know about our sin because of the law. He has shown that we are inventors of evil. And that we actually look to the law, at times to find different ways to sin.

So, the law, which is good, must be bad, right? The law, which is good, must be the source of our sin and our death, right? No! The law is good. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy that the law is good, IF It is Used lawfully.

Death came from sin. Sin entered the world through Adam. Sin is so corrupting, so all encompassing that it corrupts even the good things of this world. Sin corrupts so completely that even the law, which is holy and divine and given to us by God, to show how all things are supposed to work together, even the law is corrupted and we use it for evil.

Remember the other thing the law is for, when there is no sin, or after we have been freed from the bondage of sin and we have been freed from the bondage of the law, that the law is there to guide us, to show us how God designed all things to work. The law is there tho show that God is not a God of chaos, or disorder, or everyone do what is right in their own minds. God is a God of order, of rhythm. He is a God who knows everything and is in all time. Tim Keller says, “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

So we know that if we live by and follow God in the way that he wants us to, things just work better. Now, dont worry, Im not going all prosperity gospel on you. Im not telling you that if you believe and pray that you will get your best life now or that God wants every one of us rich and in big houses, driving Ferrari’s. Because here is the thing. Its not just about us. We are not the only sinners in the world. The rhythm of this world that was broken when Adam brought sin into the world affect every person. And so, even if we were able to live by the law completely, others still dont and so there is still sin and brokeness in our lives and around us. But Gods laws, his rules, his Grand Design is there for a reason and it is for our best interest that we live according to them.

Heres the problem. We cant. I mentioned a second ago, the all consuming corrupting power of sin. We see that in our flesh still today. Before we are justified, before the Holy Spirit changes us, we do not have the ability to not sin. We are, as Paul mentions in Romans 1, inventors of evil. Monergism.com, a website with many commentaries and what not, summed his up better than I can when they wrote:

It is self-evident that if humanity, as a unit, decided to obey all of God’s laws then almost all social ills would disappear overnight: Greed and hunger, sexual perversion and related disease, adultery, rape, covetousness and theft, murder, racism and all forms of malice etc. These would be replaced with love, unselfishness and honoring the image of God in every person. The problem is, however, that obeying God’s law is wholly UNNATURAL to us. Our nature is repulsed at living this way even though we know with certainty that it would help resolve almost all social ills entirely. Being unnatural means not only are we unable to live according to God’s laws but also that we do not WANT to live according to His laws. This fact demonstrates that the solution to man’s ills are not to be found in himself or better education. In fact, history demonstrates that the better educated just seem to find more crafty ways of doing evil. No the “natural solution” to man’s ills is proven to be bankrupt and our only hope is a supernatural one, outside of ourselves. This testifies to the validity of the Bible as the solution to our ills because it so understands human nature as it really is and points to our only solution: Jesus Christ.

What was unnatural to us before, our desire and ability to follow Gods laws, now start to fade away. We are in the process of being changed from being of the flesh to being of the spirit. The change and the process has started, but in our daily, practical, physical lives, it is nowhere near complete. Our sin nature, our flesh is still in us, still working to fight against us, still corrupting us to sin.

But, if we are justified and regenerated, we will no longer have a taste for those sins. We wont want to do them any more. We will have a desire to Gods Will whatever it is. We will have a longing to follow him. We will hate our sins and work to eliminate them. This wont all happen at once, mind you. Somethings the scriptures are clear on. Dont do them. This is obvious. And when we are saved and we read our Bibles, we will see this and we need to stop.

One easy example. Say you arent a Christian, and you are living with and sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Then you become a Christian. Maybe you already know that the Bible says not to have sex outside of marriage. Then you need to stop. If you dont know the Bible says that when you become a Christian, very shortly afterwards, through reading your Bible, and listening to biblical teaching and through disciplship and all that, you will quickly learn that and then you need to stop.

You may still want to, but more than the desires of the flesh, as we grow in our walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, our desires for the spiritual, namely Gods law, which it says here is spiritual, will be stronger and more in the forefront.

But there are also things that the Bible is less overtly clear and specific. When I became a Christian, I was a smoker. And that was not something that changed immediately. I quickly became a volunteer with the youth group at my church and about a year into to that journey, I had a dream. Now, I very rarely remember my dreams, so the fact that I did this time is significant in its own right. But I had a dream that I came out of a store and one of the kids in my youth group was off to the side smoking. That image hit me like a punch in the gut and thats when I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of my smoking and I knew it was time to stop.

That didnt mean that I was able to put them down and stop immediately. It was a process. Many stops and starts. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I was not always able to do it. And As I had a cigarettes after that, I hated it even as I was smoking it. As Paul says, the things I do not want to do, I do. Things I do want to do, I do not do.

CS Lewis: THe natural life knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self centeredness and self will are going to be killed and its ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.

Sin has corrupted our flesh so much that, until we are glorified into our heavenly, eternal bodies, we will not fully be able to resist sin and its temptations. Again, it does not come naturally to obey and desire Gods Will. Dieterich Bonhoeffer says, You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.

Now, it can be real easy to look at this passage, it can be easy to see that we will continue to struggle with sin and say, well, that means I dont have to try, because I wont succeed any way. No! It can be easy to look at this and say The Law brings death, or the Devil made me do it, or anything else that we can in order to shirk our own responsibility.

We have been trying to pass the buck, to shirk our responsibility and blame anyone and everything else for our sins since the fall in Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they now knew that they had done wrong. When God comes looking for them and talks to Adam, asking him what he had done, what is Adams response? Essentially, “It wasnt me, it was the woman that YOU gave me!”

Right there Adam shifts the blame off of himself and onto both Eve and God. But God makes it clear that we are responsible for our actions and that there is no one to blame but ourselves. We cant blame God, we cant blame the devil, we cant blame our friends, family and spouse, we cant blame Adam or Eve, we cant blame Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, this president or the last one. We cant blame anyone for our actions but us.

Now, Paul has already established, some may say, hammered home the point that we are all sinners and cannot contribute anything towards our salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But one of the things that he is establishing here and we will look at more in depth in a number of weeks, is that we do not have the ability to keep our salvation once we have been given it by God.

There are some that teach that we are saved by grace along with works, or saved by grace and kept by works. Both of these are fundamentally and biblically wrong. We are saved by grace and kept by the power, love and strength of God.

WE progress and sin lessens in our lives as we walk and grow with Christ, but it doesnt entirely leave until we stand before God in glory.

Remember what Justification is. It is God declaring us as innocent. Not us actually being innocent, but God declaring us innocent. It means that we now have a right legal standing before God. Our slate has been wiped clean and God sees us covered in Christs righteousness. But, if that was just to bring us current, if that is just to wipe clean our previous sins and not to wipe out all of our sins, then we still would not have salvation. Instead, minutes, moments, seconds, after that moment in time, we would already have sinned and been guilty before God.

Instead God saves us, and doesnt just bring us up to current, but wipes the slate clean for the past, the present and the future. God holds us and nothing can snatch is from his hands. God is the most powerful being in the universe. If he has hold if us, than there is not a thing in the verse that can undo what God has done.

So we cannot keep ourselves saved because of this eternal struggle between the flesh and the spirit. We trust, not in our own desires, our own feelings, our own abilities. We trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. We trust in God the Holy Spirit, who changes us from the inside, working on conforming us to the image of God. We trust in the bible, Gods revelation, his Word to us and what it tells us in regards to salvation, the revelation of God and who he is and what a Godly life and a God pleasing life looks like. We trust the Bible to show us, not only the law, but also, what the purpose of the law is.

John Piper writes about this:

This was the aim of the Law: that we might come to see the glory of Jesus Christ the Lord as the foundation and the focus of our justification and sanctification. And not only the foundation – providing a perfect righteousness and sacrifice – and not only the focus – providing an all-satisfying object of faith – but also the veil-lifting means of seeing and savoring himself – this is “from the Lord, the Spirit.” Seeing the Lord is from the Lord.

This is the aim of the Law and this is the aim and essence of the gospel and this is the aim of Education for Exultation: generations of children and youth and adults who study the Word not for its own sake, and not as the primary and decisive means of bearing fruit for God, but as a reflection of a living person, Jesus Christ, whom to know – not just know about, but know – is life eternal.

Paul, writes about this struggle and then cries out, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  On our own, we are wretches. On our own we have this body of death. On our own, we are and have nothing. But Amazing grace! How sweet that sound! That saved a wretch like me.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

If there is one thing to take away from Romans chapter 7, from all of Romans for that matter, its the first part of verse 25, Thanks be to God through jesus Christ our LORD. Its all about and from him, nothing about ourselves. I once was lost, but now Im found. Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.

Lets Pray

Romans 7:1-6 Freed from the Bondage of the Law

Romans 7:1-6

Dead to the Law

Good Morning! Lets turn in our Bibles to the Book of Romans chapter 7. One of the first things that we will see this morning is that the section of Romans 7 we are looking at, Paul directly parallels with a chunk in chapter 6. In chapter 6 he addressed sin. He addressed our need to die to sin so that we are free from sin. He used an illustration, inspired by the Holy Spirit to try to communicate Godly spiritual truths to our limited human ability to understand.

Here in Chapter 7, Paul is going to do the same thing, except instead of addressing sin, he will be addressing the law. He is going to use an illustration to communicate his point. He is going to address our need to die to the law so that we are free from the law. And he is going to show how who and what we are in Christ and what he has done for us is infinitely greater than anything the law could ever do for us.

We are only going to be covering a couple of verses this morning, but we are going to be looking at Paul at some of his clear and yet confusing best here. Before we go any further, lets look at the text this morning and then we can dive deeper. We will be reading romans chapter 7, verses 1-6, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

Or do you not know, brothers[a]—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.[b] 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

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 in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

So, Chapter 7 takes place in the middle of a section where, Paul’s point is kind of, The Law is there for a purpose. The purpose is not what you have all assumed for however many years, but it is there for a purpose. He has addressed the arguments that since god is good and grace will continue to exceed sin, we should continue to sin so that Gods grace will continue to grow. He has addressed that the law doesn’t matter so we don’t need to follow it. He has addressed the idea that the law is what will save us and bring us righteousness. It wont and it can’t.

And so, if we look at the law as our way to God, if we see obedience to the law as a way to earn our own righteousness, if we see the law as what we need to do in order to be saved, then we have a wrong understanding of the law. Paul points out here that when we have a wrong understanding, when we put our trust and faith in the law and when we think that we can earn anything by keeping, even when we think we can keep it, it is basically a millstone around our neck. It is bondage, it is death.

He has established that if we are justified, if we have been saved by grace through faith, if we have put our hope and trust in Christ, His righteousness and His completed and finished work on the cross, then the law has no hold on us.

The idea here breaks down like this. When we die, we will stand before God and we will be judged by his righteous and holy judgment. We will be judged on 1 of two things. If, as I just said, we are justified and trust in Christ, then we will be judged by Christs imputed righteousness, His blood covering up our unrighteousness. God will look at us and judge us by the finished work of Christ on the cross.

However, if we never did repent of our sins and believe in the Gospel, if we never did see that our works accomplish nothing, if we continued to put our hope and trust in our righteousness and our obedience to the law, then the law and the demand for perfect obedience is the standard by which we will be judged. A God sees all. He will strip everything down and we will stand before, and everything that we have done in the dark will be brought to the light.

And if there was one point that we sum up that Paul has made so far in this letter it is that none of us have any of our own righteousness. We have all broken the law. We have all failed to meet the perfect standard that God has laid out.

Yes, God is a God of love. Yes, God is a God of Mercy. Yes, God is a God of Grace. But God is also Holy. Holiness is the top of the food chain when it comes to Gods attributes. It is the only attribute of God that is repeated multiple times, in succession. Namely, in Isaiah and in Revelation, the Lord our God is referred to as Holy, Holy, Holy. He is never referred to as Love, Love, Love. He is not referred to as merciful, merciful, Merciful. He is not referred to as Jealous, Jealous, Jealous. All his other attributes he is completely and they are true. But one rises above the rest. That is his holiness. Holiness requires meeting that perfect standard and we cannot do that.

So, what ever we put our hope and our trust in, whether Christ’s righteousness or our own, that is the standard by which we will be judged. With one, we cannot succeed in reaching the standard. In the other, Christ cannot fail in meeting that standard.

And it is with that ground work laid down and established that Paul moves forward in these 6 verses. And his main point is that, just like we die to sin, we need to die to the law. Again, he is not saying that we are not to follow the law. God gave us this moral code, this Right and Wrong, this standard of behavior for a reason.

But when we are trusting in the law, when we think we can keep and therefore earn our salvation, then we are bound to the law. We are slaves to it and it keeps us captive, just like sin does. In order to be free from, just like sin, we need to die to it. We law only has that binding power so long as we are alive in it, meaning so much as we are giving our lives to it, depending on it, trusting in it, to do what only God can do. So, we must die to the law.

Here again, Paul uses an analogy here, a Holy Spirit inspired analogy, to try to communicate to our minds what God is telling us here. Last week, he used the analogy of slaves and masters. This week he uses the language and idea of marriage to bring out his point.

Lets be clear for a moment. Just as last week was not about actual slavery, especially in the way we think about, Paul is using marriage as an example, he is not teaching on marriage here. Context matters. If we are married and bound to the law, then we cannot be bound to anything else, especially and including the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ. What releases us from that binding? Death. A spouse dies and a person is then free from the marriage covenant. The person is then free and can go and marry another person.

So it is with the law. Again, if we are married to the law, we cannot be married to grace and to Christ. Once we die to the law, through death our covenant of works is broken, then we are free to enter into another, a different covenant, the covenant that God had in store for us from the beginning.

John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage in Romans, noted this about the way Paul used this analogy. Calvin wrote, “He (Paul) might have said, in order to make the comparison complete, “a Woman after the death of her husband is loosed from the bond of marriage: the law, which is in the place of a husband to us, is to us dead; then we are free from its power.” Calvin through out his commentary also used language such as that, in death to the law, “The bond of the law was destroyed, ; not that we may live according to our own will, like a widow who lives as she pleases while single; but that we may be bound to another husband; nay, that we may pass from hand to hand, as they say, that is, from the law to Christ.”

Paul, after issuing this illustration, continues in verse 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.

Paul again uses language and arguments that goes back to the previous chapter, when he brings in the symbolism of baptism. Now, we didn’t really spend much time on this, so let’s go back and read Romans 6:3-5, where Paul writes, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Jesus came down from heave, incarnated as a man, not primarily as an example, but instead as a sacrifice, as a substitute. However, he is also an example. He was baptized by John the Baptist to show that us being baptized is an important part of our spiritual relationship with Him. And we see in the act of baptism some incredible symbolism and parallels to what Jesus did here on earth. We see in the act of being baptized, death, burial and resurrection. The reason that we get baptized after we are saved is to show outwardly, symbolically, what has happened inside us. That we have died to sin, and as we see here, to the power and bondage of the law. That our old, sinful selves are buried and done with. And we are resurrected, or born again as married or bonded to Jesus Christ. We are new creations in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. 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.

So we have died to the law, and have been brought back to life through and with Jesus Christ. And Paul gives and application. He gives a why here at the end of the verse. In order that we may bear fruit for God.

Thats our mission while we are here on Earth. Of course, if we are bearing fruit for God in our lives, that will fall under the umbrella of what our created purpose is, the reason God even created human beings, and that is to give glory to God in all that we do and in all who we are.

Paul again brings out the before and the after. He shows the only two choices. Death or life. Sin or righteousness. Christ or Law. Works or Grace. When we are in sin and bound by the law, the fruit that we bear is fruit for death. We have referenced numerous times throughout Romans the works of the flesh, which could be other wise called fruit of death, that Paul wrote down over in Galatians 5. Do you remember that? Verses 19-21:

9 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Charles Spurgeon writes “Sin is the transgression of the law. Therfore, out of the law, by reason of our corruption, springs sin. And in our past lives, we did indeed find sin to be very fruitful. It grew very fast in our members and it brought forth much fruit unto death.”

Without dying to sin and without dying to the law, being bound to the power and consequences of the law, we are not capable of anything but sin. And being bound to the power and the consequences of the law, we will therefore be judged in accordance to the law. And as we, and more importantly and accurately, Paul has clearly established, that is a trial that will not judge in our favor.

But, look back at Galatians 5 again for a moments. The immediate verse before the works of the flesh that we just read, verse 18,But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” And then back again to Romans 6, the last verse we are looking at this morning, verse 6, Paul writes, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have been freed and he who is free is free indeed. We no longer serve sin, bound by the law. We now serve God, bound to Christs righteousness by the Holy Spirit. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit of the grace that has been poured out on us by God the Father. We, again, as Paul writes in the last few verses of Galatians 5, what those fruit look like.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

You know, there is a lot going on in the world today, in the country, in our state especially and probably in our jobs or communities that are baiting us, tempting us into behaving as if we are still slaves to sin. We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of evil. Those powers and principalities are hard at work to try to get us to bear bad fruit, to respond to those around us with the same intolerance, vileness, hatred, and lack of civility that is being thrown at us from all directions.

And yet we see here, and elsewhere, all through out the Scriptures, that we are called to rise above that. We are called to pursue righteousness, to follow the commands of God. The Holy spirit will allow us to bear the Good fruit that the Bible itself describes. Others will see this and call us pharisees. They will cry “Legalism!” But the truth is that this is evidence that we are free from the law. We are instead called to pray for our enemies and to love those who persecute us. We are called to, in many places, as so far as it is up to us, get along with everyone around us. The strength to do that is not in us, not by ourselves, but is granted to us through the Holy Spirit.

One more quote from John Calvin, as he says, “We ought carefully to remember that this is not a release from the righteousness which is taught in the law, but from its rigid requirements and the curse which thence follows.”

And that curse is what Jesus Christ has saved us from, if we have in fact believed in the gospel and put our hope and trust in his finished, completed work on the cross. That act of pure love, that god so loved us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, that act on the cross, we will remember here this morning as we do every first Sunday of the month.

Jesus not only knew ahead of time, the Trinity planned before the creation of the World that this sacrifice, this act of perfect love would be required and how it would take place, but Jesus told his disciples that it was about to happen and instituted this sacrament as a remembrance of it.

We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.