Monday, November 21, 2016

The Heart of Romans Chapter 8

When a United flight out of Denver was cancelled, many travelers naturally were irritated at the inconvenience. One man pushed his way through the crowd to the front, slapped his ticket on the counter, and insisted, "I have to be on this next flight and it has to be first class!" The agent politely said, "I will do what I can, sir, but first I need to take care of those who were here before you." The man's face turn red. He pointed his finger in the agent's face and said, "Do you have any idea who I am?" The agent paused for a moment, took a closer look at the man, then reached for the public address microphone and said, "Your attention please. We have a passenger at Gate 22 who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the counter."

Over the past couple of months we’ve tried to establish who we are—our spiritual identity. We are either a child of God, granted that privilege by the payment Jesus made on the cross, accepted when we believed in what He offered and realized when we called out to Him for salvation, or we are not. Hopefully, if you are not, you are on the way.

Once that identity is set, we then are to discover the freedom that salvation gives us, having had the power of Sin’s ownership over us broken. We also learned that that freedom must be appropriated by refusing the influence of our old self and responding to the promptings of the Spirit of God within us to live a godly life.

The question from our last study was: from which direction we going to accept input that affects how we live—the flesh or the spirit?

Today, we ask a simple question: where do you live? That’s a simple question but the answer depends on perspective: where you are at the moment and who’s asking.

If I’m in Dubai – America
In Massachusetts – Texas
In Amarillo – near Houston
In Houston – Montgomery (Lake Conroe)
In Conroe – April Sound
In April Sound – April Wind South

With familiarity, your answer can get more specific.

If God asks, where do you live? He’s not asking for an address. He’s wanting to know—spirit or flesh, old man or new man, old nature or new nature, in your own strength or by the power of His Spirit.

God knows our tendency is to try and ride the fence so He wants us to choose which side of the fence we intend to live on?

Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

They were caught in indecision.

Vs. 1-2 – Condemnation isn’t an issue. We can’t go back and belong to the condemned side. We have been justified. But we can live on the condemned side and if we do we will feel the same condemnation of those who are permanent residents.
Vs. 3-4 – Requirements of the Law

The Law originally was the 10 Commandments. To better manage life, God gave Moses additional laws to govern worship, social life, diet and hygiene issues. Later, when asked what God meant by certain commands, the priests expanded the laws to 613 by Jesus’ day.

You can understand the question by the Young Lawyer who asked: what is the greatest commandment? Jesus took all the commands and put them into two – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and body – and love your neighbor as yourself.

By loving the Lord – I want what He wants, I do what He wants, I’ll be what He wants.
By loving others – I live responsibly and appropriately with everyone around me.

These commands express who we are and how we have chosen to live. When I am living as a Child of God, this is what my life looks like. This is how a child of God lives.

Vs. 5 – Walk – live – Deportment – Behavior

Where do you stay? Depends on where I am at the moment. He meant: Where is your
How do you walk? Not stride, gate, foot placement, but how do you live?

Vs. 6 – Mind set –Focused on, under the influence of flesh or Spirit – Our will has chosen the influence it will follow.

            The mind set on the flesh is living in the past, living the dead life of the old self.
            The mind set on the spirit is living in the power of the new person God has made
him to be.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Gal 5:16-17)
            Things that please me don’t necessarily please God.

Vs. 7-8 – What pleases God? Living by faith.
            And without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Heb 11:6)

Can’t be two places at the same time – flesh and spirit are opposing directions
            Two-headed turtle – Which head decides which way to go, do, nap, eat?
            Double-minded means hesitating between two opinions – stuck on the fence

Vs. 9 – However! Cf. vs. 16.
      Distinction:  Then Moses said to Him, "If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?" (Ex 33:15-16)

Vs. 10-11 – By living through the influence of the Spirit within us, our whole life is affected.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)  Don’t desecrate the temple.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:26-27)

After all I’ve said about living faithfully before God, to walk by His spirit and not by the flesh, even telling them to watch me and follow my example…I can’t afford to let my own life slip.

We don’t arrive at some state of perfection. It is a daily commitment to choose which side of the fence we choose to live on.

Vs. 12-16

In the very first verse of Romans, Paul introduced himself as a bond-servant or bond-slave. It was a common practice when a servant had served his time with his master and had built such a relationship with him that he didn’t want to leave, he could become a bond-servant. He could literally give himself to his master. He became part of his master’s family.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, "Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart. (Ps 40:6-8)

It shall come about if he says to you, 'I will not go out from you,' because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. (Deut 15:16-17)

I belong to my master and the benefit of my life rests in him.
I belong to my Master and the benefit of my life rests in Him.

Vs. 28

Picture a used car salesman. Picture a librarian. Picture a sumo wrestler. What did you see when you pictured each one? Now picture a spiritual person. What does a spiritual person look like? Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? Your grandmother? How many of you pictured yourself?

You are a spiritual person. Made so by the power of God when He brought you into relationship with Himself. So look at yourself and ask: Where do I choose to live?

1.       From the beginning, God’s intentions were to get Heaven into us.
2.      Jesus said He came to give us abundant life.
3.      If we seem to be missing out on that life, realize it is found when we choose God over all other influences.
4.      Those who walk with Him enjoy fellowship with Him and experience all the favor that goes with that kind of relationship.
5.      May God make that privilege real in our lives today!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Heart of Romans Chapter 7

To stop the Mongolian raiders from the north, a Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty. It was called the Great Wall of China.  By its height, width and impenetrable structure, it kept China safe from invasion for years. The only weak spots were the passage-ways where travel was permitted through gates. What made those gates weak spots was not the construction, but the guards who could be bribed to allow invaders to pass through. The security of China rested on the integrity of the gate-keepers.

President-elect Trump will now find his life controlled by Gatekeepers. Their job is to limit access and protect him from sources that will try to influence him.

There is a gate-keeper in our lives as well. Nestled somewhere within our minds is our control center. We call it our will. Our will controls the gate through which
every decision, suggestion, impulse, action or reaction comes in or goes out.

Our wills are as unique to us as we are to each other.

Some of us have strong wills – stubborn, inflexible, determined, iron-clad
Some of us have weak wills – impulsive, indecisive, impressionable, pliable
Most of us have some combination of both.

Our wills operate within a context of influence:
·         Outside influences from the world that stimulate, fascinate and captivate us. The advertising world is built on being able to influence our choices.
·         Inside influences we receive as suggestions from our flesh and spirit.

From Romans 6 we learned that our wills before salvation were enslaved to the rebellious and hostile, self-determined nature of rejecting God’s best and seeking our own pleasures and desires. Though we could make good choices those choices were measured by our definition of good and not God’s. Those choices were driven by our body of flesh.
Salvation broke the controlling power of our old self—Sin—and set us free from that old nature driving our lives.

Hey, I still have those things going on.
·         I want things I shouldn’t want.
·         I do things I shouldn’t do.
·         I say things I shouldn’t say.
·         I feel things I shouldn’t feel.

So what got set free? Our will. It no longer is obligated to surrender to the influence and input from our old self. It can override those desires and make a different choice.

A slave no longer has to serve its former master. He has been set free.

Still, even in a redeemed life, there is a weak link. Our old self will constantly try to bribe the gatekeeper to invade our life with its impulses and desires. But a free will can now choose whether it will give in to that influence or not.

I have a sugar addiction. The leftover Halloween candy is in a bag by my chair. Why not put it away? If I get tempted, I don’t want to have to get up and go all the way to the pantry. I sat watching Thursday night football and I kept thinking about the tootsie pops beside me. I kept saying no all the way up until the very moment I was unwrapping the tootsie pop and putting it in my mouth. 

Can the old self control us again? You bet. Whenever the will gives in to the bombardment of self-centered desires, it will climb back on that dead horse and ride. The old nature has had control for so long, it doesn’t realize there is another influence.

That other influence is the spirit. It contains our conscience. Every person has a conscience. It’s that positive force to move our lives toward good. But it has limited influence.
·         A conscience can become seared—hardened by life.
·         It can become insensitive by neglect or lack of use.
·         It can be wounded by hardship, trauma or rejection.
·         It can be overridden by stronger desires.

Our conscience can’t be counted on because it can be molded by society, reprogrammed by education or misled by deceit. A conscience can be reshaped. It’s not dependable.

So the redeemed life needs something else: a connection to the mind and intentions of God.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. For we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:11-16)

What does the mind of Christ give us? Insight, wisdom, understanding, purpose.

It’s getting direct answers from the one who designed my life.  Like the Owner’s Manual.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:16-17)

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (Jn 16:13-14)

H.S. is the power to resist our old self and submit to God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (Eph 3:20)

Because the Spirit of God lives within me, I’m getting input from the very heart and mind of God to direct my will.
            I can know what God wants me to know.
            I can choose what God wants me to choose.
            I can live like God wants me to live.

How does this work? My will—the gatekeeper of my life—blocks the impulses of my old life and opens up to me the input of the Spirit of God.

So, because the Spirit of God lives in my life I won’t sin anymore?

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with [lose its control], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6-7)

Freed from Sin but not sinning. Biggest shock to my young spiritual life was I still wanted to sin, I still felt ungodly urges, I still had evil desires, I still was self-focused.

Romans 7:15-24
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

What’s going on? The battle of influence. The gatekeeper, our will, is fighting the battle of which it will respond to. The body (my old self, my flesh) is wanting its control back. My spirit is aligning me with God’s best. My will must decide which to follow.

So if the battle is in my mind how do I fight it? By reinforcing the will.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor 10:3-5)

Little kid: what’s your name – No, no Charlie. Tell yourself no and give it to God.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom 13:14)

Don’t make it easy to fall into temptation.
·         Set up road blocks – Quit looking at inappropriate material: movie, TV, magazine, internet – If you’re struggling with your diet don’t sit around reading cook books or watching the food network.
·         Quit making excuses – This is just the way God made me, I’m just really passionate, it’s the way I was brought up. (No man can succeed if he is willing to make excuses for his failures.)
·         Don’t go there. Avoid the fantasy world between what is and what could be.
·         Move the tootsie pop bag from beside your chair.

Don’t think this is just our effort to be good. It is a battle for what controls our lives. Consider it a spiritual war and pray for the power to resist the urge to give in.

When we try to live without relying on the power of God, we end up caught in the trap of our own making.

Catching monkeys by using their own tendencies. Yelling, complaining, hollering but trapped until they are finally captured.

I cannot allow my old self and its tendencies to control my life.

The ultimate answer: Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When temptation knocks on your door, let Jesus answer.
            Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

1.       Every soldier knows that freedom isn’t free.
2.      The moment we stop fighting for it, captivity creeps back in.
3.      Jesus broke the power of what enslaved us and controlled our lives.

4.      If we do not live within that freedom we will become entangled again in that from which we were set free.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Heart of Romans Chapter 6

Have you ever gone out to get in your car, turn the key and nothing? Your heart sinks. Your agenda is crushed. Your plans ruined. What do you do? Sit there and hope it will start the next time you turn the key? Bang on the steering wheel? Plead with it to come back to life? If you’re like most families, you change cars. Or call for assistance. But you don’t just spend the day sitting in a dead car.

This lesson was first learned in the days of the old West. You’re riding into town and suddenly your horse drops dead underneath you. What do you do?

1.  Buy a stronger whip.
2.  Sharpen your spurs to hopefully get his attention.
3.  Say to the people looking at you, “This is the way I’ve always ridden this horse.”
4.  Lower your standards of getting anywhere so that riding a dead horse is really okay.
5.  Hang out with other dead horse riders to get tips on how they ride their dead horses.
6.  Get a rump sticker that says, “This horse isn’t as dead as he looks!”
7.  Criticize all the other horses as being too high maintenance.
8.  Read books or watch videos that might help improve your riding ability.
9.  Convince yourself it’s just easier to sit on a dead horse that goes nowhere than try to
            ride one you can’t control.
10. Or, from the tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, when you discover that you are
            riding a dead horse, the best thing to do is dismount.

Paul describes our spiritual condition prior to salvation as being dead. Insensitive to the things of God, unresponsive to His desires, we couldn’t feel His presence, His activity, His love. We were so dead we were not even aware He was there. We looked at a sunset and only saw the sunset. We looked at a mountain range and only saw the mountains. We looked at the stars and only saw stars. God’s fingerprints were all over everything but we never noticed.

All the while, like the walking dead, we were staggering toward the edge of a cliff, heading toward the pit of His wrath because this spiritual condition was hostile against God. We were enslaved by this dead life, held captive to its deadness, stuck riding a dead horse.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive… (Eph 2:4-5)

We were dead. We are now alive. But all we knew was the old, dead life. How do we now live in this new life? The Heart of Romans – The Heart of God.

Paul writes Romans 6:2 – How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:2)

Death separates. The most painful part of losing a loved one is the separation. Prior to salvation, we were spiritually dead: separated from God.

To die to something is to separate ourselves from it. No longer under its control. No longer identified by its power over us.

In the days of slavery, a person often was born a slave, lived a slave and died a slave. After the Emancipation Proclamation, a person might have been born a slave but now he would live as a free man. He was no longer who he had been. He was given a new life.

Mr. George Johnson was slave freed by the Emancipation Proclamation: I got my name from President Jeff Davis. He was president of the Southern Confederacy. He owned my grandfather and my father. Brought them from Richmond, Virginia. And he owned me.

George’s story began with him born as a slave but ended with him a free man. How do you stop being a slave: you recognize your freedom and separate yourself from that old life. You die to that old life.

What we have died to can no longer control us. An old master might call and order a former slave to work. Freedom means he doesn’t have to anymore. The old master might try to force him back into slavery. Freedom means he can simply refuse and walk away. Why, that old life no longer owns him.

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (Rom 6:6)

Paul draws a line to show the before and after of salvation and the way you live on each side of the line is different because the power of each life is different.

The power of the old life is called Sin. (with a capital S)

There is a difference in Sin and sins.

Sin is the hostile nature within us, the power of rebellion that Adam gave in to and passed on to us. It is the desire to rule our own lives without regard for who God is or what He wants. It drives us to commit sins.

Sins are the activity of Sin. Sin is the motivation, sins are the actions.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)

When God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, God forgave us, removing the barrier for relationship with Him. He was not just forgiving the activity of sinning, but breaking the control of the power of rebellion that had reigned in our lives since birth and held us in its grip.

How did we know Sin was there ruling in our hearts—look at the activity.
Jesus paid our debt which translated into a change of ownership. We are no longer bound by the desires and impulses of that power, dominated by Sin’s activity. Sin doesn’t own us anymore. The slave has been set free.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

By His death He broke the power of Sin over us. When we accept His death as our death we separate ourselves from that old life and are raised to a whole new life.

We were changed - Transformed: Metamorphosis—caterpillar becoming a butterfly

I was a droopy, leaf-eating caterpillar crawling wherever I could to satisfy my hunger. But God placed a greater desire in me. A desire so great I would die to the old caterpillar life and live a new life as a butterfly.

[The caterpillar I was has] I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh [as a butterfly] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)

Never look at the cross without seeing yourself there. Why? It took death to break the old mastery of Sin over you. His to establish it and yours to benefit from it.

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin [the power of rebellion that wants us to rule our own lives without regard for who God is or what He wants] might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6-7)

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:21-23)

On November 18, 2014, Ricky Jackson walked out of prison a free man, 39 years after a conviction based on the story of a twelve-year-old boy was overturned. According to this young witness, Jackson and two other men killed a money-order collector at a Cleveland grocery store. The only problem was that wasn’t the truth. Eddie Vernon, who helped build the case against Jackson in 1975, had lied. When Vernon, now 51, admitted his lie, Jackson was brought before Judge Richard McMonagle. The County prosecutor told the judge that the case against Jackson had fallen apart – based on the recantation of Eddie Vernon - and moved the judge dismiss the case. "The state concedes the obvious," the prosecutor said. Jackson broke into loud sobs, his face buried in his handcuffed hands. "I can't believe this is over,'' Jackson cried. He thanked his attorneys and supporters. Then someone called Jackson's family and handed him the phone. His eyes, though soaked from tears, beamed. "It's over,'' Jackson yelled into the phone, "I'm coming home. I'm coming home. Be here to get me Friday, please. Let everybody know.''

We too were condemned by a lie. “Eat the fruit. You won’t die.” “You don’t need God.” “The wages of sin isn’t death.”

We too were set free by the truth.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 8:1-2)

The gift of God is eternal life.”


1.       As a Believer, Sin no longer owns you.
2.      That old horse has died so get off of him.
3.      By embracing Jesus’ death as payment for your Sin debt God gave you a new life.

4.      So live like a person set free: a slave who’s been emancipated or a man released from death row who’s heading home.