Page 2 of 2

What a Ghastly Thought!

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14 ESV)

In 1824, Peru won its freedom from Spain. Soon after, Simon Bolivar, the general who had led the liberating forces, called a convention for the purpose of drafting a constitution for the new country. After the convention, a delegation approached Bolivar and asked him to become their first president. Bolivar declined, saying that he felt someone else deserved the honor more than he did. But the people still wanted to do something special for Bolivar to show their appreciation for all he had done for them, so they offered him a gift of a million pesos, a very large fortune in those days.

Bolivar accepted the gift and then asked, “How many slaves are there in Peru?” He was told there were about three thousand. “And how much does a slave sell for?” he wanted to know. “About 350 pesos for an able-bodied man,” was the answer. “Then,” said Bolivar, “I will add whatever is necessary to this million pesos you have given me and I will buy all the slaves in Peru and set them free. It makes no sense to free a nation, unless all its citizens enjoy freedom as well.”

It didn’t make sense in 1824 and doesn’t make sense in 2015. Why free us from the penalty of sin (through the cross) and not free us from the power of sin? Paul had similar concerns.

Paul again affirms the truth—we are not under law but under grace. What does this mean? Let me illustrate. The law says, “The speed limit is 65 mph.” And since the law says this is the speed limit, if you go 66 mph you have broken the law. The state trooper pulls you over, points out that you were driving 66 mph. He can give you a ticket. Instead, he instructs you to slow down, gives you a warning, and you go. That’s grace. Now let me paraphrase what Paul is saying: “Speeding shall not be master over you, because you are not under the rule of the speed limit, when you are pulled over, you will receive grace.”

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:15 ESV) Some translations render that, “What a ghastly thought!”

What then? Should I drive 75 mph because, when I get pulled over for breaking the law I will not be given a ticket? May it never be! Or, as we discovered last week, of course not! What a ghastly thought! God forbid!

I Did Not Know

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

For the first 17 years of my Christian life I did not know.

Here’s what I did not know:

  • I did not know that I was baptized into Jesus’s death.
  • I did not know that I was buried with Jesus in his burial.
  • I did not know that I was resurrected with Jesus in his resurrection.

I did not know. I’ve told this before (and it’s really embarrassing, but true). For several years I drove a Chevy S-10 that had a 3rd door. chevyred-754828Behind the driver’s door was a 3rd door! For years, when Trent wanted to ride with me, he would climb behind my seat into the back and sit on the fold-down chair. I never saw the door handle to the 3rd door. It was hidden in plain sight. That’s embarrassing.

But it’s more embarrassing to admit that for 17 years of my Christian life, I battled sin in my own power because I was ignorant. I was ignorant of this reality: when I trusted Jesus as my Savior (baptized into Christ Jesus) I was immersed in his death. My old sinful nature died that day. Death isn’t fun. My sinful nature hasn’t been happy ever since. As a matter of fact, every day my sinful nature (flesh) tries to rear its ugly head, tries to convince me to satisfy its desires, tries to deceive me into thinking I can be satisfied by its desires.

Death is devastating unless there’s a resurrection in the future! I did not know that I was baptized into Jesus’s death. And I did not know that I was buried with Jesus in his burial. And of course I did not know that I was resurrected with Jesus. That’s right!

How was Jesus raised from the dead? “By the glory of the Father.” That’s a loaded statement…one that this blog won’t allow today–tomorrow we will delve into it. Here’s what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that the death of my sinful nature had lead to the resurrection of a new man in Christ…one not bound by sin, one not under the sway of the world, one not gripped by the power of temptation.

Lamar Silver showed me the 3rd door on my truck. Chuck Swindoll, in his sermon series on Romans 1-8, opened a whole new vista into what it means to walk by grace, to be raised to life by the Spirit, to live an entirely new life.

Now I know. And I have choice. Climb over the seat to get to the back of the Chevy S-10…or open the 3rd door.

God Waits With You

And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. (Genesis 39:20-23 ESV)

Joseph’s dreams have faded but his God hasn’t. Who would have thought that the road to God’s plan for His life would lead through a prison. But the LORD was with Joseph. Though Joseph didn’t have his dreams, He had God’s presence. Though Joseph was unfairly imprisoned, he was unconditionally loved. Though Joseph suffered unjustly, he worshiped unhindered. God showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. God went to prison with Joseph.

Quick question: If you had a choice of your plan without God’s presence or God’s presence without your plan, which would you choose? We’re quick to answer, “God’s plan, of course!” And when the rubber meets the road we question God’s timing, God’s involvement, God’s presence. We act as if God doesn’t know what He’s doing or why our lives are going the way they are.

God went to prison with Joseph. It is a helpful reminder that God went through your divorce with you. God endured the death of your loved one with you. God sat through chemotherapy with you. God was at the kitchen table when you sat there, heard your son scream profanities, and walk out.

And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. God was Joseph’s success.

Moses experienced this too. Israel had camped at Sinai and the time had come to leave. God instructed Moses to lead them to the Promised Land. Moses wanted to know who God was going to send with him. God’s answer to Moses may catch you by surprise:

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:14-16 ESV)

Moses didn’t want to leave unless God’s presence went with them. He’d rather stay in Sinai with God than live in the Promised Land without him! Why? Moses answers that question: Is it not in your going with us that makes us distinct?” What distinguished Israel was not their “Israelitishness.” What distinguished Israel was God’s presence.

And what makes you “you” is God’s presence.

God waits with you.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Joseph went to sleep with a plan: a quiet divorce. Mary was out of her mind to blame her pregnancy on God. He loved her but couldn’t buy her story. Then God showed up in a dream. Mary was pregnant and God had done it. It was no ordinary baby. Jesus would be his name. Joseph, as the dad, normally had the right and privilege of naming his child, especially a firstborn son. But this wasn’t Joseph’s boy. God was Jesus’ Father, Joseph an earthly surrogate! Joseph was an integral part in Isaiah’s prophecy: God was visiting earth through the birth of a baby boy called Immanuel.

Joseph woke up and did what God told him to do. He obeyed immediately by marrying Mary. He obeyed later by naming their boy Jesus.

What is God asking (no telling) you to do today? Don’t hesitate. Obey him.

The War Zone

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  Galatians 5:17

The Spirit is God’s agent of prevention.  Without the Spirit, no one knows what you might have done by now.  The Spirit “keeps you from doing the things you want to do.”  Someone has already irritated you this morning.  You want to tell them about it.  The Spirit says “no.”

Why is He qualified to speak to such matters.  He knows their heart–you don’t.  He knows what kind of morning they had–you don’t.  He knows them and He knows you.

This is why the war within shouldn’t catch us by surprise.  As a matter of fact, if you can continue in sin without the war, you’re in trouble.  The ability to sin uninhibited points to the absence of the Spirit inside you.  If the Holy Spirit isn’t preventing you from sinning, He will not also prevent you from spending eternity in Hell.  The Spirit who drew you to Jesus is the same Spirit who will prevent you from sinning.

What a great gift we have in the Spirit.

For a midweek refresher, let me recommend a great preacher, Tim Keller.  His sermon is called “How to Change” and it’s from Galatians 5.  Listen hard–he’s crazy smart!  Google “Tim Keller free sermons” and you should find it…or maybe google his name and the sermon.

Let me know what you think!

Listen to the Spirit today.