Here at least five things we have learned as we walk through the Romans series.
First, we are all pretty jacked up and need help. This includes people who go to church and people who don’t.
…we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. MSG Romans 3:23-24
Secondly, there isn’t one thing we can do to fix our situation.
No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. TLB Romans 3:20
The law was established to show us that we could never meet God’s holy standards. Knowing that, it makes us aware of our desperate need of God’s grace in our lives. The law is a guide on how to live life but it will never save us. We simply cannot fix our problem.
Third, because of our situation, God did it for us.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. MSG Romans 3:25
Fourth, for us to live out life and enjoy God and His grace, we must make the shift from focusing on ‘what we do’ and focus on ‘what God does.’
…by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does. MSG Romans 3:31
Fifth, as we focus on what God does, He will walk with us through hard times. That relationship produces perseverance, character and hope.
…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. NIV Romans 5:3-4
Let’s keep reading what Paul wrote.
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned.
Quick time out. Read that again. Sin entered this world and like a virus spread and has caused everything to grow old and die. Why do people grow old and die? Sin. Why do marriages fall apart? Sin. Why do countries to go war and kill? Sin. All of it, all of it goes back to Adam and Eve biting the apple and releasing sin. Okay, back to scripture.
13 [We know that it was Adam’s sin that caused this] because although, of course, people were sinning from the time of Adam until Moses, God did not in those days judge them guilty of death for breaking his laws-because he had not yet given his laws to them nor told them what he wanted them to do. 14 So when their bodies died it was not for their own sins since they themselves had never disobeyed God’s special law against eating the forbidden fruit, as Adam had. What a contrast between Adam and Christ who was yet to come!
15 And what a difference between man’s sin and God’s forgiveness! For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this one man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God’s mercy. 16 Adam’s one sin brought the penalty of death to many, while Christ freely takes away many sins and gives glorious life instead. 17 The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to be king over all, but all who will take God’s gift of forgiveness and acquittal are kings of life because of this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s sin brought punishment to all, but Christ’s righteousness makes men right with God, so that they can live. 19 Adam caused many to be sinners because he disobeyed God, and Christ caused many to be made acceptable to God because he obeyed.
20 The Ten Commandments were given so that all could see the extent of their failure to obey God’s laws. But the more we see our sinfulness, the more we see God’s abounding grace forgiving us. 21 Before, sin ruled over all men and brought them to death, but now God’s kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. TLB Romans 5:12-21
Do you see verse 17, …all who will take God’s gift of forgiveness and acquittal are kings of life because of this one man, Jesus Christ. The NIV says they will …reign in this life. The NLT says they …will live in triumph over sin and death.
Let me ask you, are you triumphing over sin in your life? Do you know what that means to triumph over sin and death? Everything that is dying in your life, is because of sin. Your marriage dying… sin. Your attitude is negative… sin. Your mouth yammers with no filters… sin. Your heart that has wounds and additions… sin. Paul said in verse 17, when you accept God’s grace, you can triumph over a dying marriage, negative attitude, yammering mouth, wounds and addictions.
This is important to understand what Paul just wrote. When you were born, you inherited a life of sin and all its damage because of Adam. That means, the day you come out of your momma, you are rebellious, prideful and selfish. No one had to teach you that.
No one took your hand at age seven and said, “You obey too much. You are too nice and kind. Let’s move you to a ‘special’ class. In this special class we want to teach you how to be a jackweed. That means we want you to learn how to be rebellious and unkind.” You didn’t have this because it’s already in you. It’s sin.
You see this in your kids right? They say ‘no’. They fight over toys. As we grow up, we learn how to hide our rebellion, pride and selfishness. And we learn how to live life without God. It becomes normal to do life without God, even if you grow up in church.
When you became a Christian, you moved from being labeled a sinner to being labeled righteous because of Jesus. Sin no longer defines you, you can live in freedom. Do you understand the weight of what that means? To give you a watered down analogy, it’s like you were born in the Hell’s Angels gang with the tattoos, leather jack, etc. and everyone viewed you as a gang member. When you became a Christian, your identity immediately changed to being a nun. Everyone sees you as righteous. Your identity changed. You can be a king of life, you can reign in this life, you can triumph over sin and death. That is what the Message Version calls, “God’s wildly extravagant life gift.”
If this is true, if we are righteous now, why do we continue to struggle with sin and all its damage in our lives? Because who we were as sinners and how we lived with rebellion, pride and being selfish is still programmed inside us. We have learned all our lives to live without God and that way of living is deeply a part of our soul. When you come to God, there isn’t a behavior reset button. Your identity has changed but your old patterns and ruts and routines of sin are still in us. That’s why Paul in
Romans 12:1 says, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. NIV
That means, with all of God’s grace to label you as righteous, you’re still going to mess it up. Your soul has been redeemed by God but our old habits will come back and bite us. Some days you will be filled with love and joy and peace from God. The emotions you experience are courage and being gracious.
Other days, you will be filled with rebellion, pride and selfishness and you might struggle with emotions of feeling inferior, insecure, inadequate, guilt, worry, doubt, fear.
What is God doing about this?
22 Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, 23 a life renewed from the inside 24 and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. MSG Ephesians 4:22-24
God is reproducing His character in us. God is more interested in you being holy, than you being happy. How is God at work in our lives? It’s what Sam talked about last week. He walks with us to shape and mold our lives on purpose. All those moments where the old you comes out, they aren’t moments that prove you aren’t righteous, they are moments where God allows you to see what you need to get rid of. It’s not proof that you lost your Christianity, it shows that you are struggling to experience God’s grace and triumph over sin and death.
If you still focus on ‘what I do,’ you will not like God reproducing His character in you. You will be angry and feel defeated. You will think that God doesn’t like you. You think, if I do all the right things then life will be perfect for me.
If you have made the shift and focus on ‘what God does,’ you will walk with God and not be devastated when you have to walk through hard times. You will be able to lean in on God more. You will be able to be in a relationship with God through your worst moments.
Please hear me, God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness.
One last thing I want you to see. Not everyone likes this process of becoming Holy.
21 When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. 22 There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. 23 It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! MSG Jesus in Matthew 10:21-23
That process we enter into, is life changing. But a lot of people, Jesus said, won’t enter into that life change because they want an idol. That means. They just want God’s grace to make them feel good but they will do nothing to become holy. What happens? They will get angry with you, they will turn on you.
So let me ask you. Have you moved from sin to righteousness? Are you focusing on ‘what you do’ or are you focusing on ‘what God does’?
If you are struggling, chances are, you are not enjoying God’s grace enough. You need more moments away with God where you experience God’s grace shattering your heart.