The biggest thing that has impacted me in this series has been understanding ‘the shift.’ I can’t get my mind off of it. The shift from focusing on ‘what I do’ vs. focusing on ‘what God does.’
What we’ve learned is this:
God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. 28 We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. MSG Romans 3:27-28
That is a huge shift. Truth is, God doesn’t respond to what you do. Are you striving and struggling to live out rules so God will like you more? That’s too bad cause scripture says, God doesn’t respond to that. That way of living is a waste to time and energy. We can, however, respond to what God does. He offers us grace. We can step into that grace and enjoy it. That’s a life of freedom.
Here’s the deal. You have to make that shift from focusing on ‘what we do’ to ‘what God does.’
1 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? 2 I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? 3 Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace – a new life in a new land!
That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. 4 When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. 5 Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
6 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life – no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: 8 If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. 9 We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. 10 When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. 11 From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.
12 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. 13 Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time – remember, you’ve been raised from the dead! – into God’s way of doing things. 14 Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. MSG Romans 6:1-12
All through this letter called Romans, Paul has been saying, we are all a mess. We can’t do anything to fix our mess. So God got involved and did it for us. He sent his son to die on the world stage for everyone to see God’s love. When we walk into God’s grace, everything changes. We leave a life that was dominated by sin and death and we walk into a life dominated by freedom.
It’s like we lived in a country called sin. We were born there, grew up there and paid taxes to sin. Over time, living in sin, destroyed us. Then we when accepted God’s grace, we sold our house and flew to a new country called freedom. We now live thousands of miles away from the old country called sin and live in a new country called freedom. We become citizens of freedom and love it. So who in their right mind would ever get back on a plane, fly thousands of miles back to the country called sin? It makes no sense to live in freedom and want to go back to sin.
In this section, Paul ends with, stay away from sin. Throw yourself wholeheartedly and full-time into God’s way of doing things. After reading this, many Christians with very good hearts make a big mistake. After focusing on ‘what God does’ and experiencing His grace in their lives, they begin to work hard to get sin out of their lives. We work hard at getting others to behave like we want them to behave.
How do we do this? We go to discipleship classes, fill in the blanks and begin to hear about what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. We read books on what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. Often times these books are depressing because there are chapters after chapters of new things we have to do. We go to conferences and hear speakers and from it all, we create a new list of things to do and a new list of things ‘not’ to do. Why do we do this? We have the right desire to get rid of sin. It’s a good thing.
What is the problem? We begin to focus on ‘what we do’. We get real busy doing all the right things. Notice, we are no longer focused on ‘what God does.’ We get busy, real busy. I like to call it ‘Christian busy.’ Instead of doing the most important thing, we do many many good things. And, we can’t stop because we would feel guilty if we stopped doing good things. All along, we fail to do the most important thing.
What is the result? Christianity becomes a great big burden. The thing that brought joy and tears has now become a struggle to live out. The thing that deeply marked us in our soul, has now become our failure to live up to. Do you remember that first time God’s grace impacted you? That moment when you were shattered with the awareness that God died to take your place. Do you remember that? Now we are stuck. We can’t go back to our old life, that wasn’t working, it was a struggle. We can’t keep on living this new Christian life because it’s just a new struggle. We are stuck. This is why many Christians live defeated lives. What happened? How can this be?
Our focus used to be on ‘what God does.’ That focus always leaves us filled with joy, tears or at least this deep awareness of our need of God. It brought us freedom. It forever impacted us. Now our focus is back to ‘what we do’ and ‘what others do.’ When we focus on ‘what we do’ it always leaves us feeling angry, defeated or frustrated. Why? Because we are a mess and can’t live up to God’s standards. We can’t do it. We couldn’t do it before we met God and we can’t do it now. Again, we must focus on what God does.
Paul was saying, you live in amazing freedom from sin. A whole new country. Stay in that freedom. Don’t turn it into a set of rules to follow. It’s not about a to-do or a not to-do list. It’s bigger than that. It’s like baptism. When you go under the water, it represents the burial of Jesus. When Jesus died He killed the power of sin with Him. When you die to your sin and selfish agenda, you kill the power of sin in your life too.
When you come out the water, it represents the resurrection of Jesus. When Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit He came to life and brought God down to us. When we accept God’s grace, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit, we are alive to God and it releases God’s spiritual power in us.
Paul wasn’t saying, create a list of rules to follow. He wasn’t saying here is a list of to-dos and not to-dos. It’s bigger than that. He is saying sin has spiritual power. Grace has spiritual power. When you die to your selfish agenda, you kill the power of sin in your life. When you focus on God’s grace, you release the power of God’s grace in your life.
Do you see it? Christianity isn’t about the smallness of a list of rules to follow to be good. That is nothing more than focusing on ‘what you do.’ That’s so boring. It’s defeating. It’s a train wreck. It’s so much bigger than that. Christianity is about walking into God’s grace. It’s about releasing power, spiritual power, in your life.
How do we practically release the power of God’s grace in our lives? Just a quick point. Discipleships are great. Reading books are great. Conferences are excellent. Please hear me. Those things great ways to grow. In my Christian experience, some people can turn that good stuff into a set of standards to live out. Personally, I have grown a lot through discipleships, books and conferences.
How do we practically release the power of God’s grace in our lives?
First, accept Jesus as your savior. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and live inside of you. You immediately move from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
Second, daily die to your selfish agenda and give your life to God. You recognize, your life is no longer yours, its God’s. Your desires, your agenda, is now over. It’s about God’s agenda.
Third. Ask yourself in the right moments, am I releasing the power of sin or the power of grace in my life?
Here is a big point: God can only resurrect what dies. If there is something that keeps popping up in your life, it’s because you haven’t killed it. Chances are, you like it enough to keep it around.