Sovereign King Church

Declaration of (in) Dependence Part 17

Last week at Sovereign King Church, we hunkered down in the first few verse of Romans 8 with the goal of understanding the implications of verse 1. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

That understanding led us to explore the three dimensions of this now non-condemned state. The first implication is that there is no condemnation for past sins in Christ Jesus which means the intended life of a believer is to live without guilt for ourselves and without impugning guilt on others. Guilt means there is some penalty left to pay, but Christ pays His bills. There is no penalty left for past sin.

There is also no condemnation in the present for sins either, so the believer can repent boldly and fearlessly confess sin as Heaven rejoices when sinners come to repentance. Fear is removed in the present because there is now no condemnation.

There is also no condemnation for our future knowing that Jesus has promised not to lose any of those that the Father has given to Him. If you profess faith in Christ for your righteousness and forgiveness of sin, then the promise of persevering faith is yours and ultimately you will enjoy Heaven and the presence of God because Jesus cares for and preserves His own.

These things are true because of what God has done as illustrated in verses 2-4 of Romans 8. God saw your need and was compassionate to you. He sent His son, Jesus, in the flesh to take the curse of sin. Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirements of God’s law on your behalf, and now you can live a life of Spirit enabled worship and obedience.

This is the Gospel.

Notice the progression of God’s work for us and how it plays out in the life of the believer. God saw your need, sent Jesus, Jesus lives, dies, and rises again, and you get to live a new and transformed life. Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard best summarized this when he said, “Life in Christ is best understood backwards but lived forward.”

Consider that for a moment. The life of the believer only makes sense if it is understood backwards in light of God’s compassion and Jesus’ work. Then the believer can live going forward with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Believers in Christ always look back to Jesus’ work to understand their life so they might live it best going forward.

Now, the reason that truth is so foundational is because that it is exactly how all of us live. Every one of us have some life changing event or series of events that cast a great light on the rest of life. Grow up with a damaged relationship with your parents and you can spend a lifetime trying to fix that mess. You can experience great success in school and in sports and then spend the rest of your life either trying to recapture that glory or using those experiences to go on to bigger and better things. Someone can break your heart years ago, and then you decide to spend the rest of your life never really being vulnerable again because you don’t want to get hurt.

We all understand our lives backwards but live them going forward. That’s why the work of Jesus is so transformational. It is the one event in our past that will not truly haunt us. Understand it, and then live your life forward. Understand it, and every other event in your life will pale in comparison. With that tremendous truth in front of us, why don’t we just make that our Big Picture Question?

Big Picture Question: How is life in Christ best understood backwards but lived forward?

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

This is one of those truths that works either way you read it. If you are a person who sets your mind on the flesh which is to set your mind on temporary worldly pleasure and passions then you are a person who lives according to the flesh. It works the other way as well. How do you know if you live according to the flesh? Well, you know if you live according to the flesh if you set your mind on temporary worldly pleasures.

It works this way, and I’ll be honest, if I preach this accurately and faithfully, it will scare some of you to death.

Let’s ask this question to help us understand that verse: “How do you know if you are a person who lives according to the flesh?” The answer is important because Paul is going to tell us in a few verses that if you are living according to the flesh you do not know God. This is not a works based religion meaning that you don’t earn your way before God but it does mean that if you have faith in Jesus, your life is transformed and you don’t live according to the flesh.

Quite simply, walking in the flesh and setting your mind on the flesh is actively and wantonly sinning without care. That is not the life of the believer in Christ. Your life will look different than most everyone you know. And you know what? Christianity has gotten this wrong for years because they have reduced the commands of not living according to the flesh to some church approved check list. You know the list. Don’t go dancing. Don’t go to the movies. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t say h – e- double hockey sticks.

Now, it is fine to have convictions about language, tobacco, and other things as well, but those are not the determining factors of living according to the flesh. God is the one who decides the determining factor. So, what are the things that God Himself uses to describe living according to the flesh? Fortunately, Paul tells us in Galatians 5:19 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, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul says that if that list describes you then evidently you don’t know the transforming work of Jesus. If you live consistently pursing sexual sin, sensuality whether it be food, drink, or sex, idolatry which is finding your value in anything other than Jesus, witchcraft, causing fights, jealousy, you get angry at the drop of the hat, you make rivals like you are back in High School, you like to cause division among people, you wish you had what everyone else has, you get drunk all the time. If that list describes you, God would say according to Galatians 5, “You are not mine.” If that list describes you in the least, Paul would have you ask yourself some serious questions because that list describes the people of verse 5. They are people that pursue the flesh, live in the flesh, and have a mind set on the flesh. So you might ask, “What then should the life of a believer look like?” Look at verse 6.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

However if your mind is set on the Spirit of God, you won’t live a life that leads to death. You will have life and peace. What a valuable commodity folks. I dare say very few of us here would say they live peaceful lives or are at peace with the situations and circumstances of their lives. If you are at peace, praise God and encourage others as to how you do it. Peace and life are however the intended outcome of the life God would have for you as a believer in Christ: life and peace.

What does a life that has its mind set on the Spirit look like practically? Fortunately Paul tells us that too. It is called the Fruits of the Spirit and is also found in Galatians 5. Paul says,

Galatians 5:22 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.

Paul says that if that list describes you then evidently you know the transforming work of Jesus. If you love people out of a desire to love not obligation, if you have real joy and happiness no matter the circumstance, if you have a peace or contentment in all things, if you are patient with people even if they annoy you or if they are different than you, if you are kind and gentle instead of being rough and brusque, if you do good instead of being evil and doing evil, if you are faithful to God and to the vows and commitments you make, if you practice self-control saying “no” to what God says “no” to and “yes” to what God says “yes” to.

If that list describes you, Paul would say that more than likely you are a person whose mind is set on the Spirit. These are evidences of your being saved, regenerated, transformed, and forgiven. People who do not have faith in Christ do not live that way. Those things don’t make you a believer, but those are the things that evidence that you are one. Notice that the list that describes a Christian is not a list of forbidden things. That’s how Christian cultures like to describe believers as if all God ever wanted us to do was to learn how to say no.

But so many people think that is what Christianity is. For years, people have thought that the way to communicate to the world that you are a Christian is making sure everyone knows that you don’t drink, smoke, or say curse words. If you are really old school, there is no dancing or going to the movies. Now, no one in the world sees a person doing or not doing those things and thinks, “Oh that person must love Jesus.” Why would they do that? If the person of the world does not know Jesus then Jesus is not their point of reference. They don’t assume people know Him because they don’t know Him. They might think you are religious sure, but knowing Jesus is not in their grid. Now, if you show real love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control in places where those qualities are typically not shown, that will get someone’s attention. They still aren’t going to ask about Jesus but they might ask what causes you to turn the other cheek or why you are gentle when the rest of the world is hard and harsh.

Now, at this point, I want us to ask, “How does all of this relate to understanding your life backwards but living it forward?” I’m glad you asked. Read verses 7-10

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

This is one of the passages that shows the clear relationship between understanding life backwards and living it forward. Verse 9 says the deciding factor of evidence of being forgiven and transformed is whether or not you have the Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God in you then you belong to God. If you don’t have the Spirit, you don’t belong to God. The promise of the Spirit comes from Jesus Himself and reiterated in Acts 2:33 which says “(Jesus ) being exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing”

So Verse 10 says that if you are in Christ Jesus or better yet, if Jesus is in you, you have life. Your body may be dead and given to sin, but the Spirit gives you life and leads you to righteousness. Otherwise, without the Spirits help, you live a life set on sensuality and the things of the flesh. The Spirit of course sets your mind on life and righteousness.

Now some of you may say, “Gordon, I have been a believer all my life, and I have never felt like I have any real ability to overcome sin. I sin all the time.” And I would say, “Really?” Paul would say if you don’t have power to overcome sin then you don’t know Jesus Christ. That is exactly his assertation here: if you don’t have the Spirit in you, it is absolutely impossible to please God. But if you do have the Spirit of God, you will obey. You will live by the Spirit. You will produce the fruit that comes with having that Spirit within you. Your conviction of sin will lead you to repentance and obedience. You won’t earn God’s love but you will obey in a manner that is pleasing to God. If your conviction of sin only leads to guilt and never to repentance, Paul would have you examine your heart and see if you are really know Jesus Christ.

Because this beautiful Savior ours, Jesus Christ, not only lived for you, but died for you, left the pleasures of heaven for you, and has risen to victorious new life. You cannot have Jesus in you and resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit in you and not be changed. If you don’t understand that , then look backs in order to live forward. Listen to verse 11

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Can you take this verse in? I mean, stop worrying about how hot it is in here and what you are going to eat for lunch and listen to the promise of this verse. The very Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, raised Jesus from the dead. That kind of power, the kind of power that can raise Jesus, God Himself from the dead, dwells in you by faith. That is the power of God in you that enables you to obey and exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The cancer that exists within the church today is that somehow we have been (and by we, I’m mean you have been) convinced that God is completely okay with your living a life that looks like the fruit of the flesh while calling yourself a Christian. We have focused so long on everything that doesn’t matter while missing the essential and necessary attributes that demonstrate true knowledge of Jesus Christ. With grace and power from the Holy Spirit, our lives should be marked by such a different focus and care that the world has no choice but to wonder who we are.

Again, I’m not talking about all that we abstain from; I’m talking about all that we do and all that we are for. We should truly love our neighbors whether they are gay or straight, black or white, married or divorced, illegal alien or naturalized citizens, republican, libertarian, or democrat. The strangers you meet should walk away from an encounter with you thinking, “That person loved me like they loved themselves.” Whenever the GPD, EMS, the local High School or the Town Council has a community problem, they should think that the church is the avenue to help because the church gets things done. If someone at school or work has something exciting to share, they look for you because they know that you are truly joyful. If two people are at conflict, they think of your help to solve the problem because you are truly peaceful. Your children shouldn’t be afraid to ask for your help for the 1,000th time because you are truly patient.

Do you see the life that God is calling you to? Is that the type of life that you want to live? The kind that gloriously and ever so gradually becomes more and more like beautiful Jesus Christ.? If you say yes, and if you don’t, I’m going to tell you, how do you live and cultivate this grace and power from the Holy Spirit? Charles Spurgeon, my favorite pastor, as always, provides a great answer. He said.

If you have received this grace, which has abounded over your sin, take care that you do more for grace than you ever did for sin. It is a wonder how much people will do for sin, what they will give, what they will spend, and what they will endure to gratify their passions. I should not like to guess what some men waste on their lusts; I should not like to make a calculation as to what some people spend in a year on what they call their pleasures. Well, whatever the amount is, shall they give more, shall they do more for their god than we give and do for ours? Then let us pluck up courage, and solidly assert the glories of our God and the wonders of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Especially, let us never be ashamed to say, “He loved me, and gave himself for me, and blessed be his holy name for ever and ever. Amen.”

Folks we give so much to sin. We give our time, our money, our schedules. We will waste an entire day for 15 mins of lust, anger, or jealousy. But we struggle to spend 15 mins in prayer or Bible study. And when we do knock 15 mins in the word, we are puffed and proud of ourselves.

Folks, our obedience should be like breathing; you know, that thing that makes you alive? For the believer in Christ, obedience is breathing. It is what you do. Because the Holy Spirit lives in you, you naturally obey and want to obey just like you naturally breathe – even without thinking about it. You’re breathing is involuntary. It is just what you do without thinking about it and so should be your obedience. But you know sometimes you have to take control of your breathing. It becomes voluntary instead of involuntary. If you are working out, you have to monitor your breathing to make sure you are not going to pass out. If you have ever had a baby, the ladies in the room will tell you have definitively have to monitor your breathing.

That’s what it is like when you are faced with sin or tempted to disobey. The breathing becomes voluntary. You monitor it by prayer, study of the word, asking God for help, connecting with your church family. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead resides in you. There is real power and hope for your life. The Spirit sustains you in ways you don’t even notice anymore because you have believed for so long.

But that same power, the more than you can ever imagine, can transform you, help you overcome temptation, cause you to love your neighbor, and enable you to produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life. The intention of all these things is that by faith, you are to live a life to glorify God by imitating His beautiful Son, Jesus Christ. God so assuredly wants that for you, He has given you His Holy Spirit to empower you to live a life of righteousness and not live a life that leads to death and sin.

Let’s pray that God would in this moment reinvigorate us to new confession of sin, new faith, new hope, new trust, new obedience, new evangelism, new mercy, all things new through the one who makes everything new, Jesus Christ.

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