6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Today, we are going to wrap up the book of Romans. I am not sure how this past year of study through Romans has been for you, but I can say that for me, I am clearer now than ever before that God has called me to preach one message — the message of this glorious gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul was crazy about the gospel and he preached the gospel wherever he went and I hope you noticed over this past year how the gospel was on full display throughout the book of Romans. And if I were going to allow one truth to master me and if I were going to devote my life to preaching one message, it would have to be the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can be side tracked and emphasize many peripheral teachings from the Bible. There are many good programs and methodologies out there. We could organize seeker sensitive services, or stress evangelism, or small groups, or discipleship, or community service, or church membership, or social action, but I believe these are all secondary.
We have to be a gospel-centered church. Meaning, the cross of Jesus, what He did for you and for me by dying at Calvary and rising again 3 days later, this gospel has to be at the center of our church and be the fuel for all that we do. And it would be dangerous for us to think that the gospel is old news, that it’s familiar, that I’ve graduated from that junior high teaching, now give me the Advanced Placement stuff. No, the gospel is what the Christian life is all about. Understanding it, being transformed by it and living it out.
I have 3 points today.
1) If you are saved, you are free.
2) If you are free, you can choose whom to obey.
3) If you choose to obey God, your life will be characterized by constant dying and surrender.
Quick recap. Rom 1 says, men are without excuse. We know there is a God yet we knowingly reject him because we want to be the god of our own lives. This is the human predicament. God is good and we are not. So what is a good God going to do to people who are not good? Answer: Unless God acts, we’re in a heap of trouble.
What can we do? Absolutely nothing. We can’t do anything to save ourselves from sin, from our predicament, we are under the wrath of God and we deserve only unending punishment and eternal separation from God. We can’t do anything. What is our role in our salvation? What percentage is salvation up to us? Zero percent. That is why God has to do 100 % of the work to save us. And all we can do is to receive it. Salvation is a free gift.
Who does the work of getting Elijah, my two-year old, ready in the morning? If you ask Elijah, I bet he thinks he’s in charge. And if he could speak in coherent sentences, he might answer, yeah, my dad helps me, but I do most of the work. If Elijah said that, I’d say, Elijah, go do time out. That’s ridiculous. Elijah does absolutely nothing except to resist and to rebel. And as he kicks and screams, I am the one who is pinning him down and changing his diapers and putting on his shoes and getting him out the door. And even when he is crossing the street, he may think he is the one in charge because he always tries to break free from my grip in the middle of the street. But I have his left hand in my right hand and I am much stronger than he is. So I am pulling him along, guiding him, making sure that he safely crosses the street. Elijah does nothing to get himself from home to the destination, the babysitter’s house. At most, he just lies there and allows me to do the work, or he resists.
That is a portrait of our salvation. Salvation is getting out the door, leaving our old life and entering the new life, crossing over from death to life. And God is our Heavenly Father who takes us by the hand and pulls us and gets us ready and out the door of salvation. And even while we are enemies of God and we may even be kicking and screaming and running away, God comes to us. Our spiritual eyes are opened and we are saved. But like Elijah, I get him out the door, but there is a destination. And for the believer, there is a destination as well — eternity with God. And toward that end, once you are saved, you are on your way to becoming a Spirit-filled, transformed, sanctified child of God, a new creation, one who is fit to be in the eternal presence of God. That’s our destination, or shall I say, our destiny.
So what part do we play in saving ourselves?
According to Romans 5:6, absolutely nothing.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
We are utterly powerless to save ourselves. Powerless. Having no power. We can try to be good and moral and righteous on our own, but we fall short of the glory of God. We can’t do anything. Therefore, God does everything. He sent His Son, Jesus, and Jesus died on the cross and the punishment we deserved was laid upon him. God did all the work of leaving heaven, sacrificing, suffering on our behalf and atoning for sin. It was God’s power, not our own, that raised Jesus from the dead and thereby paved a way for forgiveness and righteousness through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
What role did we play? Absolutely none. Zero percent. We were powerless, but God is all-power and He did it all. 100 %. This is the gospel.
Now, what does this mean practically for one who understands and has been saved by this gospel? We have crossed over, we are out the door, but we are still en route to our eternal destination, our destiny. What does that journey look like? In other words, what does the Christian life look like?
Rom 6, if you can turn there, Paul links what happens internally in our hearts when God saves us with the external act of baptism. We had a group of brothers and sisters who got baptized last Easter right outside. As Baptists, we practice baptism by immersion because we believe that this mode of immersion best captures what God does for us spiritually. Just like many of you were immersed in water during your baptism, as you go down into the water, this symbolizes the death of your sinful nature. Your sinful nature died with Christ. And as you came out of the water during your baptism, you were being raised spiritually with Christ to new life. Our old self was crucified with him, Rom 6:6, so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, v7, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
New life, no longer slaves, freed. Once we are saved, these attributes describe our new identity as children of God.