Faithlife
Faithlife

January 10, 2016

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Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  44:44
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INTRODUCTION This morning we will begin a series from the book of Romans. I have elected to receive the opening kickoff, and then I get to hand off the ball to Andrew when he gets back! (PRAY… we believe that this is your Word, inspired by your Spirit, preserved for your people that we may be instructed, encouraged and built up as your church.) Famous Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, thought so highly of Romans that in his Preface to the Letter he wrote, "This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well." So, while we may not memorize it word for word, as a church in our Sunday worship, it is our desire to, as Luther said, read and meditate on this book of the Bible much and well. This morning we want to get started in Romans by looking at chapter 1, verses 1-17. As you can imagine, it’s important for us to get as much as we can out of these beginning verses because they frame all of what Paul is writing throughout the rest of the letter. It’s important also to keep in mind that this is still a letter, not a theology textbook. And while this is probably the most thorough expression of Paul’s theology in the entire New Testament, it still should be remembered that this is a letter written from Paul to the church in Rome, probably written when he was in Corinth in A.D 57. As with any letter it’s important to discern who wrote it, who is being written to, and what is the overall purpose of the letter. As I was preparing and reading through the text, it seemed to me that, if we pictured this letter from Paul to the Romans as a house, we would find that this opening passage in verses 1-17 would be the front door, some windows, and the foundation. FRONT DOOR: God’s Man, PAUL Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Romans; if you don’t have a Bible, grab one from the pew rack and you’ll find Romans beginning on page 1194. Let’s open the front door, and start with verse 1: 1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God… As we open the front door and walk into the entryway we are introduced to Paul. Now, if you are unfamiliar with Paul, you can read a lot about his story in the New Testament book of Acts (it comes right before this book of Romans.) You’ll find that he was a highly educated, extremely devout Jew, who actively persecuted the early Christians, but was miraculously converted by Jesus Christ and immediately began preaching the good news of Jesus everywhere he went. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Paul (whose name originally was Saul and after his conversion was changed to Paul)… be sure to look it up starting in Acts chapter 9. There is so much that could be said about Paul, entire books have been written about him, but let’s focus on how Paul introduces himself to the Romans… what’s on Paul’s business card? 1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God… He first calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ. As a servant, Paul is saying this: “Jesus Christ owns me, I belong to Him and I’m completely and willingly at His service.” Called to be an apostle… an apostle is a messenger, a representative… and Paul doesn’t claim this as his hobby or his chosen profession, but this is his calling. He was appointed to be an apostle by the Lord Himself. And Paul was set apart for the Gospel of God… to be set apart indicates separation, but notice it’s not set apart from, but set apart for... and for what? The Gospel of God. This is Paul, servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God. This is Paul’s identity and life’s purpose. And it shows, because he can’t even finish his sentence before launching into his passion and calling… the Gospel of God. FRONT DOOR: God’s PLAN And this is the next thing we find through the front door. We’ve already met Paul, and now he introduces us to God’s Plan salvation for people, which is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The word literally means “good news” …. It is the message of God’s plan of salvation that Paul, as the messenger, was called to deliver. Let’s continue reading…. 1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord I think there’s interesting meaning in that term “Gospel of God.” That could mean “The Gospel from or authored by God” like we would say “A Psalm of David.” God is the author and architect of the Gospel. But we could also think of “Gospel of God” as meaning “the good news about God”, it’s a story about Him. Actually, both are true. The Gospel is a true story that God Himself wrote, and He has the starring role. What do we learn about the Gospel of God here in these verses? We learn that this was God’s Plan to save people. This good news was promised beforehand; it had been prophesied in Scripture. In other words, it had been planned by God long ago, in fact, it was in the mind of God in eternity past, and He promised and communicated his plan to people long before it came to pass. In verse 3, we also see that this Gospel is concerning God’s Son, it’s all about Jesus Christ our Lord. We see that Jesus is “descended from David according to the flesh” - that means he is human, and was “declared to be the Son of God” – that means he is also divine. This is all part of God’s plan. Why is it important that Jesus is fully God and fully human? Well, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells us. God made all things to be perfect and created man and woman to live in perfect relationship with Himself. But man rebelled against God’s authority – this is what we call sin – and this tarnished mankind and necessarily separated sinful man from his perfect creator God. From that day until now, sin infects the entire human race, and all mankind deserves the penalty of death. But God had a plan. God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh, now both fully God and fully human. Fully God so that He could live the perfect sinless life that we could never live, and fully man so that he could be our representative, our substitute, and take upon himself the death penalty that man’s sin deserves. And Jesus was nailed to a cross and died, taking our penalty upon himself, but by the power of God’s Spirit he was raised again on the 3rd day in victory over sin and death. And Scripture says that for anyone who turns away from sin and turns to Jesus Christ in faith for this deliverance from sin and death, they receive abundant and eternal life in Him. By faith in Jesus we are spiritually reborn and made new. This is God’s Plan… this is the Gospel of God. FRONT DOOR: God’s PEOPLE After Paul introduces us to the Gospel, he then turns our attention to the God’s People. It is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that God calls people to himself through this Gospel. Back to verse 5… Jesus Christ our Lord,5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations  6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ we receive grace. Grace is an undeserved gift of God, and that is exactly what our salvation from sin is. Through Jesus we have received grace…. and, Paul says, apostleship. The apostleship that Paul speaks of may only be referring to himself or it may be more broad to include other "messengers" of the Gospel. Either way, the reality is that God calls people to himself through the message of the Gospel. We hear the message of the Gospel and by the gracious working of God's Spirit in us, we respond in faith…. And now, here’s the question: Why? Paul says: “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” In other words, the people of God exist to bring glory to Him, through Jesus Christ, among all the nations of the world. Hear this, believer in Christ. This is your purpose. It's easy to get life's "responsibilities" and life's "purpose" confused. Yes, we all have responsibilities... as people who work and have jobs, as students, as moms and dads, as sons and daughters, as caretakers of aging parents. But we often elevate these responsibilities to the level of life purpose. These responsibilities are important, but they aren't your purpose.... glorifying God is! So, whatever it is you do when you walk out of here the other 6 days of the week, whether it’s going really well or it’s a terrible struggle, just remember that all these responsibilities and roles are not your purpose in life. But glorifying God as you live out your roles in life is your purpose in life. More about the People of God… In verse 6 we see that the people of God are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Sounds a lot like Paul’s description of himself, too, doesn’t it? And in verse 7 we see that the people God are loved by God and called to be saints. This is not just reserved for Paul’s recipients in Rome, this is true for all Christians. God loved you first. He called you even though you didn't deserve it. He chose you and gave you a purpose in life... to bring glory to Him in everything you do, everywhere you go. WINDOWS: Paul’s PRAYERS Now that we have explored the entryway of Romans, let's step back outside the front door and walk around the side of the house, because verses 8-15 provide some windows that we can peer through. Through these windows we will gain some insight into a few things: Paul's prayers, his purpose in writing the letter, and his pastor's heart. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. First, we have a small window into Paul’s prayer life. We can see that Paul was a praying man. He calls God as his witness that he prays constantly and at all times. Certainly this doesn’t mean he was locked in a room praying all day long, although there probably were times for that. But he clearly lived a life of constant conversation with God, and this is a life of prayer. And what did he pray for? Here we see him thanking God for the faith of the church. He thanks God that this faith is being made known among the nations, because this brings God glory. He prays for his Gospel work, that he may have an opportunity to go to Rome and serve the people there. And in verse 10 he prays according to God’s will, not his own. Paul provides for us a great example of how we ought to be praying kingdom prayers. Especially that now as a church we are focusing on growing in the area of prayer, we should look to Paul as an example of how to pray. WINDOWS: Paul’s PURPOSE IN WRITING This passage also gives us a window into the purpose of Paul’s letter. Paul had not yet visited Rome. These are people that he essentially did not know. But he surely would have known a bit about their situation. The Roman church had been established primarily by Jewish Christians, quite possibly some of them Roman Jews who were converted at Pentecost and brought this teaching of Jesus as the Messiah back with them to Rome. But it wasn’t long before the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, and during this time a strictly Gentile, or non-Jewish, church emerged in Rome. But upon the death of Claudius the Jews were allowed to return, and now you suddenly have a culturally mixed church, with very different ways of expressing their faith in Christ: one rooted in Jewish tradition, and the other not. Paul desperately wants to go to Rome, to strengthen and encourage the church there, but thus far he has been prevented. So in the meantime, he writes a letter. A letter meant to strengthen and encourage them in the way that he so desperately wants to do in person. A letter intended to take this relatively small, yet diverse, group of believers and unite them around one essential thing: the Gospel. WINDOWS: Paul’s PASTORAL HEART And this opens the window to one more thing, and that is Paul’s Pastoral heart. He longs to be among these people. To shepherd them. To impart some spiritual gift to strengthen them (he says in v.12). He doesn’t mean here a spiritual gift in the sense of a manifestation of the Holy Spirit like prophecy or tongues, but simply that his desire is to go and provide spiritual support, to pastor them, to build them up and encourage them in their faith. But it’s not a one-way street, he says “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.“ Please remember that coming to church is not a spectator sport. We are all here for each other, to support and strengthen one another in our faith, and whether you are a pastor or leader or not, we are all to be about the business of building each other up in faith. And Paul desires not only to pastor, but to preach. He says he is eager to preach the Gospel there in Rome, saying in v.13 “in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.” Paul, in his pastoral heart, knew that the Gospel was what the people of Rome needed, believers and non-believers alike. FOUNDATION: The Gospel - POWER OF GOD And this brings us to the last point. Everyone knows that the most important part of the house is the foundation. Everything stands on it. And so here in verses 16-17 we see that the foundation that Paul takes his stand on is the Gospel, the Power of God: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Have you ever been embarrassed? Of course you have, I know I have. Like when I recently made sandwiches for my family and forgot to take the paper off the sliced cheese, and I took a bite and got a big mouthful of paper! That’s embarrassing and I can laugh about it, but being ashamed is different, isn’t it? Some synonyms found for ‘ashamed’ are: apologetic, bashful, contrite, distraught, distressed, embarrassed, guilty, hesitant, humiliated, regretful, reluctant shy, sorry. Have you ever felt that way about something you did? Have you ever felt that way about the Gospel? Have you ever been talking to someone and thought “I hope religion doesn’t come up”… or maybe had an opportunity to talk about your faith but you let it go? What about the opposite of ashamed: confident, glad, happy, joyful, bold, not sorry, unregretful. Does this describe our attitude toward the Gospel? It should! It certainly does for Paul, and it ought to for us as well. He says “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The Gospel, God’s plan to save people for himself, is powerful. Through the message of the Gospel God works powerfully to save everyone who believes. If you can testify to the power of the Gospel to change your life, say “Amen!” God doesn’t just “zap” people to save them. But the message of the Gospel – delivered through people, people like Paul and people like you and me - this is his chosen instrument, and he uses it powerfully to move people into a saving relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. We should not be ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God! “To the Jew first and also to the Greek…” again Paul wants to rally this diverse Roman church around what matters most, their salvation through faith in the powerful Gospel of God. But for us this reinforces that this salvation is available to you no matter who you are, no matter what your background is, no matter what religion your parents were, no matter your economic status, no matter your skin color…. None of it matters except saving faith in Jesus Christ. And in verse 17 Paul explains how all this works: For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, (then quoting from the Old Testament) as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Righteousness is being completely right in every way – a state of moral perfection and right standing with God. In the Gospel, righteousness is revealed… But whose righteousness? God’s righteousness, not ours! The message of the Gospel is that we are all stained by sin and there’s nothing we can do to clean up the stain. In the OT book of Isaiah it says: “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;     in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 6 We have all become like one who is unclean,     and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” But it’s not our righteousness, it is God’s perfect righteousness which He gives to us through Jesus Christ. Paul says it elsewhere in the Bible: Ephesians 4:22-24 “..put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Titus 3:4-6 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Philippians 3:8-9  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith We’ve been singing about it all morning: “In Christ alone my hope is found…” “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness….” “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne….” God takes the royal robe of Jesus’ righteousness and puts it on us and when He looks at us He sees Jesus’ righteousness, our stain is gone and we are covered in the perfection of the Son of God, and it is because of this that God can declare us not guilty, and we are transferred from death to eternal life in Jesus Christ. And none of this is accomplished by our efforts, or by good deeds…. but by faith. In verse 17 he says “from faith for faith”…. Some translations say “from faith to faith”.. and if you are looking at the ESV you’ll see a little text footnote that says “OR, beginning and ending in faith.” In other words, it is faith, believing in this Gospel about Jesus Christ that grants us all of this, the Power of God, the Salvation of God and the Righteousness of God… all of it comes through faith, it is for all who believe. And it doesn’t stop there, it’s from beginning to end all about faith in the Powerful Gospel of God. Because those who have received the righteousness of God shall live by faith. We “live by faith” not only in the sense that we are “made alive” by faith, but we actively “live by faith”. It is not by sheer effort that we live the Christian life, not by perfectly following a bunch of rules… that didn’t save us in the first place! No, it is a continual humbling of ourselves before God, turning away from sin and turning to Him in faith, knowing that He does all the work. It’s when we start trying to live life on our own that we get into all kinds of trouble. Author Jerry Bridges writes about this concept of “preaching the Gospel to yourself every day.” He would say that the Gospel isn’t just the beginning of faith, but he would agree with Paul that it’s “from faith to faith…” it’s the foundation for a whole life of faith. In the Gospel we are reminded of our sinfulness and hopelessness without Jesus. We’re reminded that we can’t be saved apart from him, and we also can’t live a life of obedience apart from him, either. In the Gospel, we are reminded that we are chosen by God, overwhelmed by his love, and saved for a purpose: to live for the glory of God all the days of our lives. That is why these verses are not only the foundation for Paul’s letter to the Romans, but they become a foundation for our very lives. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” CONCLUSION As the worship team comes up…. I want to first talk to you who is not a believer in Christ. I want to say that I’m glad you’re here, because you’ve heard the Gospel of God today. And I hope and pray that I’ve expressed it clearly, this good news of God regarding his son, Jesus – fully God and fully man – who lived a perfect life in your place, and died a sinner’s death in your place, and was raised to life in victory over sin and death forever. This is the message of the Gospel and it is the power of God… but only to those who believe. And if you don’t believe this, then you are turning your back on the power of God for salvation. Maybe this is the first you’ve heard this Gospel or you feel like you’ve heard it a million times before…. I just want to ask, is today the day? Is today the day you finally stop resisting and take that step of faith, and believe? Now there are many here who would say “I do believe in Jesus.” People who have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ by faith…. I start with the example of Paul: What’s on your business card? In other words, when you introduce yourself to the world, what do you want people to see? Is your image rooted in your identity as a servant of Christ, set apart for the Gospel of God? Do you see yourself as loved and called by God for a purpose? Are you living out your true calling, to bring glory to God in everything that you do? And, are you building every day – by faith – on the foundation of the Gospel? I want to get practical with this…. If you look at the back of your bulletin, you’ll see the LIVING IT OUT portion and there you’ll see what we call our Values Statements here at Meadows. Each of our values statements presents a truth of the Gospel, followed by three responses of faith, all for the purpose of glorifying God with our lives, by helping people to Know, Love and Become like Jesus Christ. This week, choose one of these faith responses to live out this week, and pursue it by faith. Preach the Gospel to yourself, be reminded that you were saved for a purpose, and by faith trust in God completely for the results! Let’s not be ashamed of the Gospel, but let’s live in the power of the Gospel by faith this week. PLEASE PRAY WITH ME…
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