How do we really change? It’s a good question. And a great answer comes in Romans, chapters 6, 7 and 8. This is the best, most fleshed out and clear passage in all of scripture about how life change through the gospel actually works…
Three principles for real change:
1 - Realize the breadth and scope of our cosmic unity
2 - Recognize the shape of our spiritual slavery
3 - Live daily in our new identity
Romans 6:8-14 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Cosmic Unity, Life and Death
Imagine a rich person, who became wealthy through the brilliance and diligence of effort. Now they get married. How do the riches come to the new spouse? Not through earning them, but through legal union. The first person works hard and amasses wealth, the second person just says, “I do, and lights a candle!”
What an amazing picture of grace. Jesus did good. The nobility and greatness and sacrifice and victory He won… was amazing. God looks at Jesus and His heart bursts with pride and love at the things His Son has accomplished. Because of grace, Romans 6 is saying that legally, everything Jesus Christ has done is true of you. The determining factor is not your past, but Christ’s past. He sees you in the light of the beauty and glory and goodness of Christ. We are joined with His death, and this is good news.
But we’re also joined to His life. When we believe, we’re unalterably connected to the life of Christ, past, present and future. The first century stoics had an idea called (in the greek), palingenesea. It was basically, the rebirth of the cosmos, in fire, where the world was undone and remade anew. The fire would come and cleanse and destroy and the world would be born again… in an endless cycle.
The New Testament takes the idea of palingenesea and uses it as a metaphor for the transforming nature of the gospel. Jesus says that instead of an endless cycle, God will have one palingenesea (Matthew 19) and everything in the universe will be set to right. Titus (chapter 3) compares the coming palingenesea in the last days to the redemption we experience now… and it’s an exciting thought.
The power of Christ, in His life and victory, comes to us now in the work of the Holy Spirit. The outshinings of miracles from Jesus and the early church (and in answer to prayer today) is, in a way of speaking, a preview of the palingenesea. We’re not just joined with Christ in death, but we’re joined now in the power of His life, where death, cancer, sin, poverty, sickness and everything less than perfect in God’s sight will unravel at the palingenesea.
Our goals are too small… we have a power source in the love of God that is beyond our imagining!
The Shape of Our Spiritual Slavery
The question arises from Paul’s teaching: if salvation is received, not achieved, given, not earned… why not live any way you want? Why would you need or want to change anything? One way Paul answers this question is through an exploration of slavery and the nature of the human heart.
Martin Luther said the 1st commandment is the basis for all the others. You never break any other commandment until you break that one. If you overwork, you’ve put the god of money, or achievement, or status before the God of heaven. If you can’t give up the bad relationship, you’ve made an idol of male or female affection… and that becomes a god and spiritual master over us, putting us in slavery.
If we live any way we want, even though grace covers us… we’ll be captured by work, or politics, or money, and it will cripple our lives and influence.
This is why we don’t live any way we want. That approach is comically, and fatally naive about how the human heart works. The only way to not be completely out of control, with sin reigning over us completely is to obey the first commandment and put God on the throne fully.
Live Daily Out of Our New Identity…
We don’t lack any resources as a Christian. But those resources need to be deployed. If we ever fail to change, we’re not remembering who we really are… that’s the key.
The lie of the serpent in the garden is the same lie that hinders us today. Namely, “if you fully obey God - if you do everything He tells you to do, He will abuse you. He’ll hold you back, He’ll withhold knowledge and good things from you. He’ll take away the thing you really want.” Satan is still telling us the same lie. If we really sell out to God, He’ll take away the thing we’re dreaming of. And we’re afraid. We’re afraid to relinquish control and truly let God be God in our lives.
We have to let the gospel inflame our heart. And be changed by the transforming grace of selfless love. Even though Christ had all power, He came as a servant, He died as a servant. He came gently. We can trust God because of the way that He came, because of how Jesus lived and died, we know that He is for us and not against us.
So jump in! We have to live daily in a way that sets free the power of the death and life of Christ in our character, words and actions. Dare to pray big prayers and take big steps and dream gigantic dreams… being everything God is calling us to be!
Adopted, part 1 (Romans)
Week of 8 October 2017
Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We have here a tricky passage that none of us are going to like. It’s passages like this that probably convince most preachers to avoid teaching straight through Romans. But here it is, so we’ll tackle it!
Let’s start with context. Paul has just finished telling us that Christians can rejoice right now about where they are headed. They don’t have to wait until they get to heaven’s gate to know whether they will be let in. Our salvation is totally secure in Jesus for genuine Christians. But, Paul knows there could still be those who are wondering whether this free gift of Christ’s righteousness handed to us as our entry pass is really ours. Paul, in this passage, goes back to the beginning, and in so doing, he shows us that this isn’t the first time mankind has been handed such a gift. It’s just that the earlier gift was not much to cheer about. It was the proverbial bag of coal.
Paul takes us back to Genesis, when Adam, the father of the human race, committed the first, the original, sin. He had been told that the day he committed this sin, he would die. And on that day, he began to die. And what he didn’t know was that death was also coming for every one of his offspring, all the way through time. It was as if everybody through time was right there in the Garden of Eden with Adam, as if we had eaten the forbidden fruit of that tree with him. Adam’s sin was credited to our accounts as if we’d been there, too. That’s verse 12.
Well, Paul, that sounds interesting, as well as unfair. What’s your proof? Paul doesn’t say this, but his audience would know that, once Adam sinned, he and Eve are thrust out of the Garden of Eden and can’t go back. At that point, mankind doesn’t have any rules or laws to follow. Everybody was just on their own to do whatever they thought best. And with no laws to violate, there were no extra charges of sin that accrued to mankind during the time from Adam to Moses. Sounds good, right? Yeah, except everybody from Adam to Moses continued to die physically, even though none of them broke a specific law of God like Adam did. See, God’s law didn’t show up until Moses. And without law to articulate what’s right and wrong, God couldn’t justly charge someone with sin during the period. So, you smart ones out there want to know: If no sin got counted against people from Adam to Moses, why did everyone die who lived during that time? I mean, the world-wide flood that wiped out all but eight people occurred during that time. And the destruction of Sodom and Gomorroah happened during that period. Well, here’s what they had going against them--they had that original sin from Adam as an albatross around their necks. And that sin brought death. In other words, they all showed up on planet earth on death row, carrying the guilt and punishment from Adam’s original sin. This is verses 13-14.
When you think about it, that helps explain why seemingly innocent babies and children die, although it might not make us feel better about it. Death continues to come to all humanity, including to children in the womb, newborns, infants, toddlers, and older kids. Why is this, even though they haven’t knowingly violated a specific command of God. They come out, we all come out, tarred by the original sin of Adam.
Now, I didn’t want people to spend the rest of the message fretting about their children, so I spent some time talking about how sin is talked about in scripture and why I and a host of other evangelical and fundamental Christian leaders have concluded that little ones who die go to be with the Lord. For that full discussion, pull up the podcast or watch the full video on our website under the media banner.
After this, we zeroed in on verses 15-21, where Paul shows us that the crediting of our accounts as Christians with the righteousness of Christ doesn’t just get us back to square one. No, we gain far more from Christ than we lost when Adam sinned. As bad as Adam’s sin becoming our sin was, Christ’s righteousness becoming our righteousness overwhelms, in a good way, what Adam did.
Adam’s sin cast everyone into a death spiral, but Christ’s gift ends death, bringing life to those who have faith in Christ. Ok, we may die physically, but wait, we will be raised with new, impeccable bodies to live forever. What Christ did, was not just compensation for Adam’s sin, but all of ours, too. Because guess what? We not only inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin, but the guilt of our own sin. We are born with a sin nature that leads us to commit individual acts of sin by word, deed, motive and intent. Ever since God handed down the law to Moses, all mankind has known that there’s right and wrong, and they know they have done wrong. We all have individual sins in addition to Adam’s counted against us, but in Christ all those have been forgiven.
Beyond this, we don’t just get to return to what we think was the idyllic paradise of Eden. Truth is, Adam entered the Garden in jeopardy every day. Every day there was a choice he had to make: eat the fruit of that tree, or don’t eat the fruit of that tree. All it took was one bad choice. However, in Christ, we have not returned to that world. Our sin, all of it, has been totally wiped away by Christ. We live here, right now, experiencing the first part of what will be eternal life that will not be taken away. And more than just scraping by, we can experience victory in life because of our faith in Christ. The life we get in Christ is far superior to the life we lost because of Adam. He is a type of Christ in that his one act affected so many others, albeit negatively. By comparison, Christ’s one act of sacrifice benefited a host of others positively.
Armed with this information, it seems that God is wanting to make sure that everyone knows of their condition before Him and wanting to make sure that everyone knows that He has provided in Christ a way out. Trade up from death and sin to life and forgiveness. It’s amazing how few choose the latter. Don’t be one of them. Choose the wiser option.
Proof of Life 4 (Romans)
Week of 1 October 2017
Our passage this week is Romans 5, verses 1-11.
Romans 5:1-11 - Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The Apostle Paul has dabbled around the edges in the past few weeks, but here he delivers the crown jewels on the subject of our security, our guarantee, of salvation because of faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at the very real proofs you and I have that once we’ve been saved, we are saved for good.
Paul begins with reminding us that Christians, through faith, are justified, i.e., declared innocent of sin. It is a done deal because all your sin has been paid for. Do we still sin? Yes. Did Christ die for that sin? Yes. Are we brought up on charges again for sin? No. Why? Christ already paid for it on the cross. End of story. As a result, we have peace with God through Christ. We are no longer at odds with God. We can stand confidently in this grace—the unmerited favor of God who gives us salvation we did not deserve and did not earn. We can, right now, rejoice in what is headed our way, the glory of God. We are going to see him and be with him. It is a certainty.
Check out verse 3. What else can give you confidence in your salvation? Yep, our sufferings, our trials, the hard things that come at us in life. Oh, boy, we did not want to hear this. But look what those produce in us—endurance, character, and hope. In other words, God will use the tough stuff in life to produce change in us, to make us more and more like Christ. You will be able to look back in time and see how God has strengthened you, has built your character, and has increased your expectation in what is yours in Christ. And this will give you even more assurance that your salvation is secure. You will find as you go through these hard things that God is faithful, that he has not let you down or left you. We will not be put to shame for our faith in Christ. We will not be made to look like fools.
Lastly, you have proof of this salvation because of the Holy Spirit God gave you. We are told elsewhere in the New Testament that the Spirit is literally a down payment, a guarantee, that God will deliver salvation to those of us who believe. And the Spirit’s job, among other things, is to lead us and to communicate to us that we are loved by our heavenly Father. If you are a Christian, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you are not, you have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s a good idea to ponder which side of the divide you’re on.
Now, the last six verses struck me as a deeper dive into the depths of this love God has for us. We are no longer his enemies, but his children. That’s all well and good, but don’t gloss over the fact that we were loved by God while we were his enemies. And that makes God’s love something other-worldly. See, the best we humans can manufacture in the love department is to be willing to die for other people we think are good or worthy—a friend, a family member, a child, some really decent person, or maybe just a person in harm’s way. But to give up our lives for an enemy? No way. Have you ever heard of a father offering to take the lethal injection for the murderer who raped and killed his daughter? Yeah, me neither. No soldier has received the Congressional Medal of Honor for laying down his or her life for the enemy. Soldiers kill enemies, not die for them.
So, Paul asks us to think logically. If God loved us enough to save us when we were his enemies, do we think there is anything that can separate us from that love now that we are his very own children? You think that by sinning as a Christian, you can make God to stop loving you? Dummy, did you forget your status when God loved you and died for you? You were a sinner. He has already proved that His love for you is not deterred by your sin. Now that your sin--past, present, and future--has been dealt with, God will certainly not love you less. In fact, if anything, that love for us is more intense. Do you see how many “much more” or “more than” phrases appear in verses 9-11? If you have genuine faith in Jesus, you are not going to be dumped in a ditch by God. You did nothing to warrant your salvation in the first place, and once it is yours, you can do nothing to cancel it. So, rejoice in what God has secured and guaranteed for you and stop being a worrywart.
Now, as we look forward, I know some of you are thinking right now, “Hey, this sounds too good to be true. If I can’t lose my salvation no matter what I do, what’s to prevent me from just doing anything I want? It sounds like I get a free pass on sin.” You raise a good point, and it is one Paul expected. So, stay tuned, because there is some incredible teaching coming on how genuine faith in Christ completely alters a saved person’s relationship with sin. You are not going to want to miss it.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.