Social Justice and Gospel Statement

So, I actually started righting this in the last week or so, before the Social Justice and Gospel Statement came out. I combined this with my response to the statement and am throwing my thoughts out there. (Spoiler: I agree with every word of the statement, but have not, and might not sign it.)

This post is me trying to put into words what’s been rattling around in my brain over the last couple of months regarding the whole Gospel/Social Justice division. Respectful, articulate, conversational thoughts will be loved and encouraged. Thanks for taking the time to read the whole thing.

So, what’s it been? 6 moths? A year? Since this whole “SJW” “Cultural Marxism,” and all those terms and identifiers have blown up and become a massive dividing point within Christianity. One side claims that addressing things like racial inequality, human dignity, very real social issues, especially within Christianity itself, are a very real, core part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The other side claims that preaching the unfiltered, unwatered down, simple, by grace alone through faith alone gospel is the only thing that needs to be done.

Both sides are right. And Both sides are wrong. And both sides (not all individuals, thankfully) but both sides of the issue are unwilling to see any common ground, any room for compromise (not compromising truth, that’s not ok, but compromising as in coming together and hearing each other out without assuming meaning into words, without assuming motivations into arguments, and without assuming salvation into the way beliefs play out in individuals)

This divide and the arguments (and names) that are thrown about from both sides, very closely mirrors the political divide in our country as well. If you don’t believe the exact same political views that I believe your a Nazi and fascist, or a communist. No middle ground, no area for unity in disagreement.

The same thing here in Christianity today (not the magazine, lol). If you don’t hold the same convictions as I do, your wrong. If you believe that past racial issues are not fully gone, if you believe that there are social ills and problems in our society and our communities, then you must not believe the Gospel and you water down Christianity and you don’t believe in the sufficiency of the scriptures.

If you don’t believe that, if you don’t believe that those issues are ones that, not only exist, but exist within the church and should be addressed, well, then your not really following Christ. You have your head in the sand and you are a part of the problem, allowing these issues to continue, sometimes out in the open, sometimes just under the surface, and always because it benefits you.

And so with arguments like that from both sides, it can be hard to find common ground. It can hard to believe that you can both be on the same side. It can be tough to see that you both can be right.

Here’s the thing. The Gospel is sufficient for all things. The Gospel is what saves, what changes hearts, and lives. The Gospel is what brings us out of our sins and into right relationship with God. The Gospel is all that is needed.

And, there needs to be application of that Gospel in our lives. There needs to be fruit that bears itself out of that Gospel. And not all sin ends immediately upon salvation. The process of sanctification, the process of sin leaving our lives, our actions, our words and our thoughts, can take time. It will take a life time. We will never be completely sinless. But we are told to try. We are told that is the standard we are to strive for, that’s what we need to live up to. Not because its required for salvation, but because salvation requires it of us.

Some sins God delivers us from instantly. Some sins he gradually, over time convicts us of and helps us work through. Some sins we get so comfortable with that we never do listen, no matter how much we are supposed to or how saved we are.

Racism is a sin. Period. All are created in Gods image and likeness. There is none better or worse. We are all one in Christ under the cross. It seems to me that Racism is a sin that one doesn’t not just get delivered from, but one that, through a process, through the Holy Spirit pointing out errors in that way of thinking, will take some time before being purged from a person.

When we see Racism in the church, our job is to confront it. When we see pride in the church, when we see sexual sin in the church, when we see any sin inside the church, our job is to confront it. And because we are so good at trying to ignore our sins, especially ones that take time to be convicted of, and because we like our own sin, but hate others sins, we tend to congregate with people who share the same sins as us. This is especially true if we are not intentionally looking for, seeking and trying to kill the sin that is inside of us. The Bible says that is what we are to do, seek out and kill the sin inside of us. But we don’t always do that.

And any sin that congregates together has the opportunity to become systemic. The easiest to point out is if a church has a systemic problem with pride. It starts with the leadership and it flows down from there. We see it happening in various denominations with sexual sin. If the leadership starts to accept certain sexual sins, over time it will also be accepted by the congregation and it will imbed itself within the church body, even as it turns over and new people come in and old people (not age related) leave.

The same can take place with racism. It starts with someone who becomes a Christian, and is struggling with that sin. Either they don’t eliminate it or are established to a leadership position before its eliminate. It is accepted by that person and eventually, knowingly or not, consciously or not, becomes accepted by the people around them, (others in leadership or authority) and then the rest of the congregation. It then becomes a part of that church in a systemic way, both as an institution and in the individuals.

That sin needs to be confronted both as individual sins, and in some of those institutions where it has allowed to fester and not be confronted. That doesn’t mean that the people are not saved. That does not means that racism is rampant in all institutions or all individuals within those institutions. It does not mean that we as individuals need to repent of what people have done in the past. But institutions may very well need to repent of what the institution did before any on currently in the institution was there.

The Gospel is sufficient for all things, first and foremost, but certainly not only for salvation. There is nothing that needs to be done. But once we are saved, we are required to search our hearts and eliminate any sin that we come across. We don’t succeed in that 100%, but we are command to continue to root it out. For some, the sin that never gets eliminated or takes a while is racism. To deny that is foolish.

It is a poor argument to say, the Bible says racism is bad, so if we are truly saved there will be no racism. That is true in theory. Just as, if we are truly saved, we wont give in to sexual temptation, we wont sin in anger, we wont struggle with pride, we wont lie, cheat or steal. Hear me loud and clear, this is not excusing any of these sins. They need to be confronted and dealt with when they are there.

If you have not read through it yet, I highly suggest that you go and Read the Social Justice Statement that came out on Tuesday, September 4th. (https://statementonsocialjustice.com/) I will go on record as saying that I agree with every affirmation and denial that is in the Social Justice Statement. However, at this point, I will not be signing it.

The reason I will not be signing it is because this statement, I think, misses the nuances of the conversation going on. Again, I agree with everything in this statement. But not everyone on the other side of the conversation disagrees with anything in this statement. This statement is good, it provides clear, biblical reference points and summations about the gospel, salvation, sanctification, race and the role it plays, and more. But it doesn’t address the concerns that people who agree with this statement still have regarding the treatment, historically and currently, individually and corporately of minorities. Obviously, I do not think that the people who put this statement together and put it out there are the ones guilty of this kind of treatment, (Though, in all honesty, I don’t know them or their personal lives, thoughts, actions, I make that judgement based on what I do see from them, their actions, teachings and convictions.) But there are those who have and are. The question becomes, what do we about those, and what do we do to those who have been on the receiving end? Tough questions that we cannot answer until we are actually willing to sit down and listen to each other.

And the conversation is not about coming up with solutions, we have the solution, the Gospel, being transformed by the renewing of the mind. But the conversation is about recognizing where these sins occur, how we are blind to them (similar to the sin of pride) and how it can be a stumbling block and a barrier to our brothers and sisters around us. There is no substitution for the Gospel, there are no add-ons to the Gospel, but there is required application of the Gospel and this is a way that some have not recognized a need for application to be purposely and consciously dealt with.

Anyway, that’s my two cents, stemming from watching people I love, admire & respect on both sides of this division try to stand up for the truth of Jesus Christ. Maybe its a language issue, thinking words that are used mean something other than what they are intended to mean when they are used. Maybe its looking to the extremes in both sides and labeling everybody in with those two sides (similar to American Politics today) Maybe its just ignoring the heart and the nuances of what’s being put forth, but we need to do a better job loving each other and listening to each other. We need to do a better job being the body of Christ, standing up for the truth in love and yet loving the truth in all its application, not just theory.

Casey

Galatians 3:28 & Genesis 1:26&27

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.