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Sovereign King Church

Declaration of (in) Dependence Part 7

        Have any of you ever been in a dispute with an employer?  If you have ever had a job, I’m sure you have.  If you haven’t, just give it time.  Conflict between boss and employee is inevitable because it is very difficult for everybody to pursue interests other than their own in the workplace.  You know what I’m talking about.

o       Maybe you were promised a raise or promised a promotion and it never came.

o       Maybe you were promised a day off and you were told you had to work.

o       Maybe you were blamed for something that went wrong at work and it absolutely was not your fault.

o       Maybe the conditions got so bad that you ultimately had to leave that job or maybe you are presently looking for a new one because of some dispute.

o       I think when I look back at my former jobs, I can relate to every one of those.

·        You see the way work works is that you are promised a wage or a benefit, and when you put in the time or hours or complete the project or sales goal, you expect that which lines up with the agreement between you and your boss.

o       Conflict happens when you don’t get what was promised or the job performance is evaluated in a way that you don’t agree with.  Maybe you love your job but just struggle with co-worker.  Either way.  The curse of the fall from Eden was that work would be hard, and hard it is.

o       Sorry, didn’t mean to sound like Yoda just then.

·        I remember working a job one time faithfully for 3 years.  I was rewarded for the company’s improvement of their bottom line, so if they made a profit, I got a cut.  If they didn’t make a profit, I didn’t get a bonus.  I was told on day one that I would never get an increase of my base salary.  If I wanted to make more money, then I needed to make the company make more money.

o       This system went along pretty well for 3 years.  I would say about out of every quarter, the company made a profit in at least 2 out of the 3 months.

o       I was happy, and they were happy…or so I thought. 

o       After 3 years, the bosses decided to give me a review.  I had never had one before, and that review was a bloodbath.

o       Even though the company was consistently profitable, they felt there were many areas in which I was not managing well.  They felt I was too slack on the staff and too slack on my hours.

·        Guess how I responded?  Poorly.  I stepped in line alright and changed the things they asked me to change, and we had 30 day review that confirmed that I was doing what they wanted to do.  But there was still a problem.  I had a terrible attitude.  I was angry, and they knew it.  I didn’t like the way they were treating me, and they didn’t like the way I was treating them. 

o       So what did they do?  To get me in line, they put a cap on how much bonus I could make for making the company profitable. 

o       They expected more for the wage they had given me, and I expected more for the work I gave them.

·        Now I don’t tell that story to make me look good because my attitude stunk, and if we have learned anything in our time in the scriptures is that if I step in line outwardly but inwardly I’m full of anger, then I negate my righteous action.

o       For example, Jesus said you might not physically kill a man but if you are anger in your heart, you’ve committed murder already.

o       Same thing goes for lusts and any other sin that does line up in our heart and actions.

o       You might be the ideal employee outwardly but if you are full of rage and nasty comments on the inside, then you are actually a poor employee.

o       Aside from marriage, the workplace might be the most difficult place to actually live out the Christian life. 

·        Well this week in Romans, Paul is going to use the analogy of working and getting a wage to explain how salvation works.  We’ll find out that salvation and forgiveness of sins works pretty differently than the capitalistic system in which we live which is precisely why so many people today in the church don’t understand salvation.

o       Why exactly does the American church struggle to understand salvation?  Because in salvation, your job review says you have done a terrible job, but Jesus has earned every approval for you at no cost of your own. 

o       You don’t get what you deserve and you can’t make your own way like the American system promises. 

o       No, the declaration of Jesus’ goodness on your life should cause you to walk in humility, gratefulness, and give you a sense of peace and rest that should transform your life.

o       It is hard to do that when everything everywhere else tells you to earn your way, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and get ahead in a dog eat dog world.

·        Owning a free salvation though should affect your life and change your motivation.  So this week, let’s ask this Big Picture Question. 

 

Big Picture Question:  What should free, unearned salvation motivate you to do?

 

4:1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

 

·        If you weren’t with us a year or so ago, we walked through a study of the book of Galatians which was also written by Paul.  In that, Paul puts Abraham forward as the example of a believer and an example of a person who lived by faith.

o       We see that same example here which makes since as Galatians was written before Romans.

·        In the past few weeks, Paul has done everything he could to explain that no one earns their salvation before God and that it only comes by faith in Jesus.  Well, Paul is going to try to explain the nature of faith by using Abraham once again as his example.

·        Every one in that day respected Abraham as the Godliest man that have ever lived perhaps next to Moses or David.  But the people of God were not called the Children of David or the Children of Moses.  They were called the Children of Abraham.

 

 

·        So Paul asks, “What exactly did Abraham gain by all of his obedience?  Was it enough to repair his relationship with God?  No.  Perhaps, he could boast that he obeyed more than others but that would be useless because he could not boast of an obedience that won him anything before God.

·        Take a minute and think of the Godliness person you have ever met. 

o       Why do you think of them in that way? 

o       How was that person different than other people? 

o       Did they boast of their Godliness?  I’m sure they didn’t.

o       I spent most of my summers in college working at a camp on Lake Gaston.  It was a Christian camp with water skiing and mountain climbing…a great way to spend the summer.

o       The assistant director was this meek, small-framed man who could do any task at camp, work any program, and play any song.  He had a very sweet wife and couple of kids.  But you know what made him stand out to me?  His humility.

o       He had every reason to be arrogant, and during the summer with a 1,000 kids and staff full of college students, he had every reason to get really, really angry.  But in 4 summers working there, I never saw him lose his cool.

o       Even with all those attributes, he didn’t take any pride in his accomplishments.  It was always about Jesus, and not about him.

o       He knew he hadn’t earned a damn thing.

·        That is what Paul says Abraham was like.  To flesh that out, Paul gives us vs. 3.

 

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

 

·        Verse 3 says that Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness. It doesn’t say that he believed in God but believed God.  What did exactly did he believe?  Well, God made 3 specific promises to Abraham on the day Abraham believed and it was credited as righteousness.

o       God promised “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

o       God promised “Your son shall be your heir”

o       God promised “Look to the stars.  So shall your offspring be.”

·        Those promises were a reminder of the first promises that God made to Abraham when God said, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

o       God was promising to be Abraham’s God and also promising to give Abraham and his barren wife a child.  Actually, God promised not to only give them a child, God promised to make the people of God out of them.

o       Abraham believed that God was who He said He was and believed that God would do what He said He would do.

·        Abraham’s belief was counted as righteousness.  Now belief in God is expected of every human being as stated in Romans 1.  It is not righteous to just believe.  It is does not earn goodness before God.  It is expected. 

o       But God counts belief and faith as righteous. 

·        To illustrate that, Paul uses a very real example to our culture. 

o       He says, when you work, you expect to get a good and fair check for your efforts.  Your paycheck is not a gift.  A gift is undeserved. 

o       Your paycheck is your earned and rightful wage.

o       Righteousness is not a wage.  You do not work to get it.

o       Faith is not the hard work you put in to get salvation.

o       Faith is a gift.  Righteousness is a gift.  

·        The one who does not work but believes in God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. 

o       So those who have faith in Jesus are the righteously unemployed.  You don’t work for it.  Your faith and your salvation are given to you. 

·        Abraham believed but he didn’t earn anything by believing, but God counts faith as righteousness. 

·        Just in case we don’t get it, Paul gives us another example. 

 

just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

 

·        David explains how faith works in a similar way as the way Paul describes it.

o       He says, “Blessed is the one whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord does not count His sin.”

·        David was a Godly man who lived years before Jesus Christ.  Yet God gave him a picture of what the glories of salvation were.  There were 3 blessings from God that David celebrates.

o       You are blessed if God has forgiven your sinful deeds. 

o       You are blessed if blood has covered them. 

o       You are blessed if God does not count your sins against you.

·        For God to forgive sins they must be covered and exactly how that happens is that the heavenly Father exacts the original penalty from the Garden of Eden: 

o       On the day that you eat you will surely die. 

o       So if your sins have been forgiven, they are covered by the blood of Christ and therefore not counted against you.

·        Now we have to be very careful at this point in the text.  These sections have been incredibly in depth and theologically intense.  If we all walk away from this sermon smarter but no more passionate or godlier, we’ve missed the point.  The last thing the world needs is a few more arrogant, Christians. 

o       So let me make this intensely practical to go along with the intellectual.

o       I want to give you a measure by which you can ascertain just how well you understand all of this.  Well, Paul does.  Look at verse 9.

 

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

 

·        Circumcision was a badge of honor for the 1st century Jewish person.  They felt it was evidence that God loved them more than any other nation or people.  Abraham was circumcised and going forward, every Jewish male was circumcised on the 8th day.

o       Circumcision was biblically based but essentially became a religious badge of self-righteousness. 

o       This is something that every believer in God struggles with.

o       We found faith and salvation in Christ alone, but then the human heart takes pride in the acts of being a child of God. 

o       The gifts of God become religious trappings.

o       We take blessings and raise them to the level of ultimate.

o       The things you do and the things you believe become more important than who you are before God.  That’s twisted.

·        But according to Paul, Abraham believed prior to His circumcision.  It was important for Paul to remind the Romans and us that the faith does not equal obedience but faith equals trust in the promise.

o       Obedience naturally becomes a part of faith and the life of any believer, but trusting the promises of God is faith. 

o       If you aren’t trusting the promises of God, you aren’t going to obey anyway.

·        Let me give you an example of how we get these things confused and turned around.

o       Have you ever taken your dog out for a walk or seen this happen?  You’re walking your dog and you come up on another dog walker.  The two dogs immediately do what to eat other?  They smell each other’s butt.  Why do they do this?

o       Well according to vets, dogs smell each other butts for a variety of reason.  It is a means of identifying other dogs.  They can tell the general health condition of each other that way.  They can determine whether the other dog is in heat or pregnant.  They can even determine what the other dog has eaten recently.    

o       Well, Christianity has a tendency to work the same way.  The butt smelling just has a different purpose.  You bump into another person and what do you want to know?

§         Position on gay marriage?

§         Who did you vote for?

§         Do you drink? 

§         Do you believe in election?

§         Do you speak in tongues?

§         In Paul’s day it would have been, “Are you circumcised?”

o       Notice what none of those questions include?  Any conversation about Jesus.  Why does the church do that?  Why do you have a tendency to sniff people out instead of asking them about their relationship with Jesus?

§         Categories sure are easier than relationships aren’t they?

·        What correction is Paul trying to make?  We see that in verse 11.

 

The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

 

·        You see, Paul’s faith and belief came before any righteous act like circumcision.  That was to ensure that we never got faith confused with earning our way before God.  Had it been the other way around, your twisted hearts would have not gotten the pure picture of what a relationship with God looked like.

o       We already struggle enough as it is.

·        This picture of Abraham believing before doing any righteous acts should solidify in our hearts that salvation comes by faith alone and it should give us great hope that others would come to know Christ because obedience is not necessary. 

·        Let me give you a way to explain this.  Sit with me for a minute.

o       In the temple in the OT, there were 3 levels of intimacy.

§         There was the outer court in which anyone could associate:  men, women, Jews, or Gentiles.

§         The inner court was where the altar was and much more restrictive about who could enter.  No Gentiles; no women.

§         The center was the holiest of holies which is where the presence of God dwelled and the High Priest could only enter there once a year for sacrifice.

§         The closer and deeper you go into the Temple, the more intimate and closer to God you went.

o       Our understanding of God works in a similar way.  We are always working from the outer world of distance to the inner world of intimacy.  It could be explained in this way.”

§         Our outer court is the realm of ideas.  This includes areas like the theological and even cultural and political.

§         The inner court is the realm of the heart and emotions.  This is where the realm of ideas affects us and we interchange with them.

§         The holy of holies, if you will, is the most intimate place of who you are as a person where you and God interact. 

o       It is very easy to stay on the outer two levels. 

§         We can debate theology and politics and the minutiae of Christianity and not grow one bit towards God.  Those things have value but not always inherent value.

§         We begin to do business with God when we begin to ask real heart questions about what God says is true.

§         Ultimately though, we don’t want to miss out on God and the person of Jesus which is really possible unless we cut through all the levels and deal with Him personally. 

o       Apply this thinking to what we have been talking about today.

§         God has provided a way so that though you are a sinner, you can by faith in Jesus Christ be forgiven and counted righteous.

·        Theologically this is called penal substitution, justification, imputed righteousness, propitiation, and a host of other theological terms.

·        Going one level deeper, we have to ask, what does my heart say?  Does it cry out a need to be forgiven?  Does my heart fight against being told I’m a helpless sinner?  Do I still want to earn my own way?

·        Having been informed with those things, where we need to go is to do business with Jesus Christ.

o       Do you in your person says, “I have no hope other than Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves me and I love Him.

§         If that is where your heart is, then you can work outwardly and enjoy these truths.

·        If your heart cries Jesus, you can let that relationship begin to influence your heart and your emotions and you can grow and be healed.

·        Then you enjoy the theological and abstract more and see deeper truths with in scripture.

·        Think about this in application with people you want to share Jesus with.  It is very hard to radically accept people where they are at with God.  Instead we do the butt sniffing techniques and spend all of our time in the realm of ideas and rarely talk Jesus.

o       It so easy to find out one’s theological position and just start arguing.

§         It’s easy to just argue about who you voted for or argue someone’s view on gay marriage, abortion or fill in the blank.

§         It is easy to argue every idea in the world and you know what?  Rarely do those conversations go any deeper and even if they do, that is an incredibly ineffective way to show someone you care.

o       Perhaps you do talk about the emotions of the heart.

§         That does at least address concern and displays affection and care.

o       But what the real issue needs to be is the person of Jesus.

§         Ask who Jesus is to them.

§         Tell stories of Jesus and His displays of affection and care. 

§         Have people interact with Him, not you.  Be a mirror to Jesus not to yourself.

o       I have passionate views on theology, politics, and cultural and whenever I enter the fray on those debates, you know what happens?

§         I get bored to tears because no one is interacting with each other. 

§         Those conversations do not impress me and I’ve wasted more time than I care to admit and lost more friends than I should have.

§         It is all showmanship and one-upmanship and those conversations so completely lack love, care, and compassion because they are so rarely about Jesus.

§         If they start with Jesus and wind up there, they have some value.

§         If they start there, theology, politics and the like an annoying gnat or dirty diaper in the house you can’t find.  You just want them to go away.

·        You want to be a church that makes an impact in this community for the Kingdom of God?  I don’t want to be a part of any other kind of church.

o       Yes, we will seek doctrinal and theological purity and we will protect those things.

o       Yes, we will care for people at the heart level and we will seek to be loving and compassionate. 

·        But if we aren’t presenting Jesus Christ to ourselves and others, we are missing the big picture. 

o       Everything we do here, from worship to CE Groups to the chaplaincy to theological training have to be expressions of our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

o       If not, we are wasting our time.

·        Pursue Christ folks.  Pursue Jesus the person.  In every area of your life ask.

o       How does this thought or idea inform me about Jesus?

o       How does this emotion inform me about my relationship with Jesus?

o       Where am I with Jesus?

·        Make Jesus your agenda folks. 

o       If Jesus is your agenda, you can truly find healing for emotions and truth for your mind.

o       If Jesus Is your agenda, you can enjoy the realm of thoughts and ideas more fully.

·        If you want to know whether you deal at Jesus level more than other, find the last person you got into argument with and ask them whether you were more passionate about Jesus about the idea you were defending.  Asking that question takes guts.

·        Let’s theologically informed, heart and emotionally healthy people who love Jesus and love others.

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