If you are a Christian, do you still struggle with trying to earn favor with God or understanding who you are before Him? In the third week of our sermon series Dying to Live, David Marvin describes our position when we have a relationship with Christ: where it comes from, what it leads to, and what it includes.
God is for You | Romans 8:31-39
Future Glory Over Present Suffering | Romans 8:18-30
Changed by God | Romans 8:1-17
Acceptance Over Performance | Romans 7:7-25
The Law and Spirit | Romans 7:1–7
Our Identity in Christ | Romans 6:15-23
Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ | Romans 6:1-14
Obedience of Faith
If you are a Christian, do you still struggle with trying to earn favor with God or understanding who you are before Him? In the third week of our sermon series Dying to Live, David Marvin describes our position when we have a relationship with Christ: where it comes from, what it leads to, and what it includes.
Good morning, Watermark! My name is David Marvin. I lead The Porch here on Tuesday nights. I'm excited to continue this series Dying to Live. Let me read the passage as we are walking through Romans 6-8 and unfolding some of the deepest, richest, and sometimes difficult to understand teachings and theologies of our faith, the new life we have. So, let me read the passage, and then we will dive in. Romans 6:14-23. The apostle Paul writes and says this:
"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching [the gospel] that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations." He's talking about the metaphor of slavery.
"Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Let me pray one more time.
Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for every person here. Thank you for the incredible truths. I pray as we walk through the new life we have you would help us understand who you say we are and understand the gift you have given and the life we have access to through you. Thank you that college football is back, and thank you for so many other things and every person here. We love you. Amen.
Let me start with a little bit of a story that will give us some traction for where we're going. On December 8, 2015, I got a phone call from my pregnant wife. She had just left the doctor and said, "You need to come home…" It was a Tuesday night, and I work on Tuesday nights up here. "…because we have an emergency C-section scheduled for tomorrow morning. He's going to come 10 days early." I was going, "What?" "Yes. You need to come home."
So I came home, packed the bags, and realized the dream that every guy has whenever their wife gets pregnant for the very first time of being able to drive however fast I want to to the hospital no matter what anybody says, and if a policeman follows us there I have the ultimate excuse, was no longer going to happen for me, because a C-section is totally planned. It's like, "We're here for our appointment."
So we go. We check in. It was our first child. The delivery goes smoothly. Everything is fine. We're sitting there and holding this new child. They take us to our room. You're set up for the next few days in this room where nurses, around the clock, take care of you. Nurses in general are amazing, but the nurses in labor and delivery are the most incredible people. You're so delirious and tired, and they come, and they will take the baby all night and let you sleep, which is the most amazing thing ever, especially when you're in that state.
So, I'm sitting there, and day one goes by. Day two goes by. I'm like, "Man, I could get pretty used to this." We're just watching Netflix and hanging out. "Nurse, take him away. We'll see him in the morning." Three days go by, and they come into our room and are like, "It's time for you to leave." I'm like, "Are you sure? Is there any way to extend our reservation for another night?" She's like, "No. It's time for you to leave." I'm like, "Leave?"
I'm thinking through… We're about to leave with this child. When it's your firstborn, you're like, "I feel like I'm barely out of high school. It's borderline irresponsible for you to tell me to leave with a living human being here. I don't know how to change a diaper…all of that. This is my first rodeo of learning how to swaddle."
They check us out and walk us out and, true story, I didn't even know how to put the car seat in the car. I tried to. I couldn't get it in the right way. The lady was like, "Let me take over." The nurse comes in and is putting the car seat in our car. We were just so rookie when it came to this new life, this child we had. I'm leaving there going, "Man! I don't know what to do with this new… Is there an instruction manual we should be following for this life?"
What does that have to do with what Paul is talking about? Well, we're in the middle of a conversation we started last week when Blake kicked off. I highly encourage you, if you haven't listened to that, to go back and listen, because we're picking up where he left off, where Paul introduces, in a very similar and true way, there has been a new life that has happened if you have trusted in Jesus.
It's not in the form of a child, but when you came to faith in Christ, you were given a new life. The old you is gone, nailed to the cross, as dead as Jesus was when he was crucified, and you have a new life. He begins to walk through how you and I are to understand and live with this new life. Every bit as real as a couple having their first child and having a new life, you have a new life in Jesus.
Most people come to faith in Christ, and they just think, "I prayed a prayer. I trusted in Jesus. My eternal life is secure, and I don't know how it works itself out in this life." Paul would say you're separating a huge aspect that Christ came and died for, not just to give you eternal life but to give you his life and allow you to live his life. So, he's going to walk us through in this passage, and I just want to walk through three aspects of living the new life.
Here's what you need to know about the book of Romans in case you haven't read it recently or are not familiar. It was written by a guy named Paul. Paul is the apostle formerly known as Saul. When Paul was Saul, he spent years of his life trying to stomp out Christianity. He was a terrorist, if you will, and was anything but pro-Christian. Then one day, as he's going to persecute the church and Christians, Jesus shows up, knocks him off his donkey, says, "You're going to come work for me," and Paul spends the rest of his life as, arguably, the greatest missionary of all time.
God would use Paul to not just spread the message of Christianity all over the world but to write more of the New Testament than any other person we have. Paul was incredibly brilliant, which means when you read his writings, it's difficult. You have to go slowly to understand "Oh, I'm following what you're saying." Like, so brilliant that in one part of the New Testament, Peter is talking about Paul. It's one of my favorite passages in the New Testament.
Peter is writing about Paul, and in chapter 3 of 2 Peter, he's like, "I understand you've been reading the writings of Paul. They can be a little difficult to understand, and you're not alone if you've been there, because we're not understanding either." If you've ever felt that, you're not crazy, but as we'll see, he's making a very clear argument on this new life you have and how you and I are to live it. So, we're going to walk through the passage again and discover what he says the new life is made up of…specifically, where it comes from, what it leads to, and what it includes…all of which, if you have put faith in Jesus, is true of you.
Let me read verses 14 and 15 again and look at where it comes from. "For sin shall no longer be your master…" Or you may have "…have power over you." "…because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!" Paul says that when you put your faith in Jesus, your position changed. Your position is in your relationship and your standing with God.
The first idea of the new life is that it comes from a new position you have when you trusted in Jesus, whether or not you feel like it, whether or not you've ever heard that, whether or not you understand that. Paul would say, formerly, you (this would represent you) were underneath the law and in sin. That's what we covered last week.
What does under the law mean? Your position was in sin, defined by sin, and under the law just means you were responsible for your own righteousness. You were responsible for living up to a standard or a behavior or obeying the law and providing your own righteousness. Paul says the moment you trusted in Jesus a change took place. Your position changed, and you were placed in Christ and no longer under the law but under grace.
The new life comes from a new position in Christ. Fundamental to you experiencing and living out the new life is understanding there has been a shift. There has been a position that has changed. You're no longer defined by your sin. You're no longer defined by your behavior. You're no longer responsible for providing your own righteousness. You have been placed in Christ and are as righteous as Jesus himself. Your position now is under grace.
The term in Christ is Paul's favorite way to describe the Christian. Over 70-some times he uses the phrase in Christ. "This is who you are. You're in Christ." This position idea is highly important to him. Thirteen times alone in the book of Romans he brings up, "You are in Christ," which means "You are under grace," which means Christ provided your righteousness. You're no longer responsible for it on your own. Christ has provided it, and this is your position before God.
When it comes to your standing with God, if you have put your faith in Jesus, the new life comes from that new position that is here. So often, we think that based on how I perform or how I act impacts my position. Paul would say, "No, no, no. You have to understand. When you trusted Jesus, your position once and for all was settled. You were placed into Christ underneath grace." Meaning, your behavior, your actions don't determine or dictate where you stand with God.
It is done. It is over, Rover. This is your position in Christ. He has placed you, and the new life begins to flow from that, which means we no longer have to live wondering if it was a good week, if it was a bad week, if we're hung up on some sin, all of which is not God's design and desire for us, but for the Christian it doesn't impact where you stand with God, Paul would say. So many of us live lives, and we don't believe that. It's almost hard for us to get our minds around that.
It's like this. I work with young adults, primarily, and a big thing among young adults is dating and the dating world. For those of you who have been married for a while, you probably have forgotten this stage, but dating is the worst season ever in a relationship. Here's why. It's the perpetual interview. It's one interview after the next. They're putting their best foot forward. You're putting your best foot forward. Some of you guys can't even remember this because it was so long ago, but you were there, and you would just act like you had it all together.
You picked them up in your car. Your car has never been so clean ever since that day. You're doing things. Even the way you talk about yourself or present yourself is all trying to put your best foot forward. They ask you, "How was your weekend?" and you're like, "It was great. I spent three hours reading my Bible, and then I went and baked some cookies, and then I worked out for the second time. That's just what I do every Saturday (that one time)." You're just trying to put your foot forward in a way that is like, "I want to land the relationship."
We're in this interview, and I don't want to lose the security of this relationship. That is very different from that of marriage where your position is sealed. It is secure. Paul says for the Christian, something you may have heard before but have not fully allowed to penetrate… When you came to faith in Christ, your position shifted. You got the job. You landed the position. There is no interview, no continuing on. When God looks at you, you are defined by Christ. The righteousness of Christ himself is yours. The love God has for Christ is yours, and that's what defines you.
Paul says something really interesting. He says, "Do you know why sin will not rule over you? Because you're in Christ under grace." Think about that. He says, "Do you know why you are not going to just continue to live in sin and go off and live however you used to, despite the fact that being under grace, by definition, you can do anything you want?" He says, "The fact that you live under grace is the reason you are not going to continue to live in a way that runs toward sin rather than running toward God." It's a really interesting thing, but this is the Christian journey.
Paul says your heart begins to change. When you were placed in grace, the fear of failing or of sinning doesn't cause you to sin even more. It frees you up, knowing, "Even if I sin, it doesn't change my position. My performance cannot change my position. My position can change my life and my performance and my practice, but this is secure." He says that security leads you to follow more closely with Jesus, not to abuse grace. He's answering that question.
It's not dissimilar to this. When the Golden Gate Bridge was being built decades and decades ago out in San Francisco… This is an incredible structure, a huge bridge. It's massive, if you've ever gone and seen it. They were building it, and in the first half of the bridge's construction they had 23 men fall to their deaths. They fell into icy cold water, and because they fell from such a large height, they immediately died.
Halfway through, they decided, "We're going to put a huge net underneath to catch." Now, you would think knowing there was a huge net that would catch them if they fell, more would have been likely to fall, but the opposite happened. Only 10 people fell in the rest of the completion. Not only that. Knowing a net was there to catch me, that I no longer have to be afraid if I fall, didn't just lower the number of people who fell; it increased the effectiveness and the production speed by 25 percent, a significant increase.
The net being there didn't increase the number of people who fell. It had the opposite effect. This is similar to the Christian life, Paul would say. The Christian life understands "How I relate to God doesn't shift based on how I act or perform or behave. My position is secure, and that impacts how I live my life." However that life is lived doesn't change this, but everything in the new life flows from understanding this is your position, if you're in Jesus, once and for all.
Then he begins to describe how that position impacts our lives, our practice, our behavior. He says this in verse 16: "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" Paul brings up an analogy of slavery that his audience would have understood.
In that day, a majority of people who were in slavery… It didn't look like slavery in more modern centuries. It was often indentured servitude. You would become a slave in a situation where "Man, I can't afford to pay that debt off, so here's what I'll do. I will work for you for free until the debt is paid off." You would offer yourself in slavery voluntarily. He brings up, "Just like in that scenario where you're choosing 'I'm going to pay that off,' if you do so with sin, it leads to death. Obedience leads to righteousness."
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart…" A change has happened. "…the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance." That's the gospel. "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations." He's describing his metaphor.
"Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness [God] leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!"
Paul brings up the idea that this new position you and I have leads to new practice. That's the second idea I want to talk through. By practice I mean behavior. He begins to say that your position under grace leads to new practices in this life. He gives us the part you and I are to do. In the same way we used to present ourselves to sin and let sin take us wherever it willed, you and I are to present ourselves to God and let that position impact our practice.
This is the tension of the Christian life. He lays out what you and I are to do is to present ourselves to God. "God, I'm bringing my life to you." The way the Christian life is grown, the way spiritual life happens or spiritual growth takes place is by us bringing ourselves to God and doing the things that lead to that growth happening in our lives or that allow for God to produce that growth inside of us.
This may be something you've never heard before. You can't live the Christian life on your own. The Christian life is the life of Christ. You can't live the life of Christ. You can't even stay on a diet. Do you think you can live the life of Christ? Only one person can live the life of Christ. His name is Christ. In other words, if you begin to go, "Man, now I'm going to be Christlike," you're living in you.
Paul says there's no power living in you. No wonder he brings up "In Christ. In Christ. In Christ." Christ is the only one who can produce that growth inside of our lives. You and I are responsible, when it says bring or present ourselves to him, to cooperate with how God produces growth and cultivate the things that lead to that growth. This will make sense, but stay with me, because we're going on a very narrow path.
To use an analogy, my cousins are farmers up in Kansas, and they grow maize, thousands of acres of maize. I don't know who's using maize, but somebody is, because clearly there's a lot of it being produced up there. They can't grow maize. Have you ever thought about this? A farmer can cultivate an environment that leads to the growing of maize, and they can cooperate with how God says maize is grown, but only one person, who's God, can actually create life and growth and bring that about.
Now what do they do? They're responsible for tilling the soil, providing extra water if it hasn't been raining lately, making sure it gets sunlight, and not working against the process by which God, the Creator, brings about crops by pouring on toxins or doing things that are going to lead to that being destroyed. So, their responsibility, in order to grow something, is "I'm going to cultivate and cooperate with how God grows something."
This is what the Bible teaches over and over as it relates to spiritual growth. You and I are to cultivate and cooperate with how God brings about growth. In 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul even brings this idea of "I planted, Apollos watered…" He's talking about spiritual life. "…but only God gives growth." Inside of the Christian life, you and I are responsible… Paul used the word to present. Other places it talks about what you and I are to do to present ourselves and cooperate and cultivate the things that lead to growth. You can't do them on your own, but God can.
So, what is our responsibility in that? What does it mean to cultivate and cooperate? That would be things that we would call spiritual disciplines or spending time talking to God in prayer, reading God's Word. "I'm going to cultivate and cooperate the things that lead to the life of Christ growing in me, and I'm not going to work against that process by pouring on toxins." Paul uses the word sin. "Hey, you're free from sin. Don't bring that back in here."
I'm not going to intentionally bring into my life things that are going to be toxic to that, and when they do pop up, when lustful thoughts come up, when control over where my kids are going to go to school and how they are doing… When anger and bitterness begin to form inside of my marriage, I'm going to do what any good farmer would do. I found some toxins. I'm going to get rid of that through confession to other people.
The way we cultivate and cooperate with the way God creates growth is not by trying harder to create the life of Christ. It is by working alongside the one who ultimately brings and creates growth in your life. I think the reason this is so hard that our practice doesn't impact our position but our position changes and impacts our practice is because everything in the world works the opposite way.
From a very early age, you and I were told, "If you want to have a good position, you need to make sure you work hard for it. In grade school, if you want to be at the top of your class, your position is determined by how hard you work in the classroom, how good of grades you get. On the sports field, your position on the team, where you're going to play, is determined by your practice, son. So you'd better work hard. You'd better put in the work. You'd better practice, because that's going to impact your position."
Then you get to the New Testament, and Paul says, "Oh, no. That's not how God works. Your practice cannot shake your position, but your position before God will and can shape your practice." In 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul says this. This is all throughout the Bible where Paul says, "My position is what shapes my practice, not the other way around." He says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am…" That's his position: God's grace. "…and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them…" That's his practice, because of his position. "…yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."
You and I are to present ourselves no longer as slaves to sin but to present ourselves to God and cooperate with the way he brings and produces spiritual life and spiritual growth. Paul says that position… Another way to say it would be following Jesus. This is why Jesus taught in John 15, "If you continue to abide in me, abide in me, abide in me, you will bear much fruit, but on your own, in you, you can do nothing, but I can in you." We come and say, "God, here's my life. I'm going to work with you to produce that growth."
Then, finally, he goes into the new privileges we have as a part of our new position. "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap…" Or "…the fruit you get…" the ESV says, or your translation may have. "…leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul says you are a new person. You have been set free. You're no longer a slave to sin. You have the choice anytime sin is there. You're no longer a slave like the world around you is enslaved. You have been set free. You've been given a new freedom, and that new freedom leads to the fruit of holiness being created by God in your life and the ultimate privilege of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The third idea from the text is our new position has privileges that come along with it. One of them is this idea of fruit…the fruit you reap, or the fruit you get, is what the text says. God brings about a fruit of holiness in your life. In this new life you have, you have the privilege of God creating fruit inside of your life, growing and making you more like Jesus, something that formerly was impossible and is impossible for anyone who is not positioned in Christ. What do I mean by that?
In my backyard, I have two trees. One is a dead fig tree that in "Snowpocalypse" went to be with the Lord, and the other one is a pecan tree that is alive. Do you know what I've noticed about the dead fig tree? It doesn't produce figs. No matter how many times I check, there are no figs. And I've noticed something else about the pecan tree that's alive: it produces pecans.
Now, I don't think it comes down to the fact that the fig tree is just phoning it in and he's really not trying. I think it comes down to the fact that he's dead. A dead tree can't produce anything, versus an alive pecan tree that can produce something because it's alive. Paul says you have a new life, and this is why God continues to conform you more to Jesus through his Spirit. If you're in Christ, whether you even want it to, this is just what he's doing.
This is why you'll find yourself experiencing what the Bible calls conviction. You say something, and the Holy Spirit reminds you, "I think you could have said that in a kinder way." The Spirit comes up, and formerly you would have been so angry and so upset and you would have moved on, and now you find yourself going, "I think I need to ask for your forgiveness."
Your dating relationships, your marriage, your parenting is being impacted and shaped because there's a new life that has been created that you have. Whether you believe it, whether you feel it, whether you always think it, it's there. Paul says one of the benefits and privileges is that fruit of holiness, of living in line with him, that God is bringing about.
The other privilege he mentions is there's a freedom. God says you are free. The Christian life is living in this tension of "Though I am free, there's still sin inside of me." There are still past patterns. There are still lustful thoughts, anxious feelings. There are still ways in which I continue to operate not in who God says I am but in who my heart, or my sin nature is what the Bible says… All of us have something sinful. One day it will be done away with, but it still exists. Now I'm learning to live as who God says I am in Christ.
A friend of mine was going through the process of adopting. If you've been there, it can be a long journey process. Finally, they got word that their son, who was in Africa… They brought him home. He was less than 4 years old. They were so excited. In a moment, with a stroke of a pen, he was transferred from under the authority of an orphanage, under the rules and responsibilities and the lifestyle an orphanage brings about. With the signing of a single document, authority was transferred.
Now he's no longer in there, no longer has to listen to or conform to or be informed by. He's a part of a new family and must learn to live and will learn to live underneath and in and part of that new family. Do you know what he was saying? The first couple of months or years that he was there, he would always ask… He had a new dad, a new family, and this young kid would ask a question that his dad thought was so bizarre at first. He couldn't understand. Over and over he'd ask him.
Every night before bed he would ask, "Dad, are we going to have breakfast tomorrow?" The next day would go by. "Dad, are we going to have breakfast tomorrow?" "Yeah, we're going to have breakfast tomorrow." He would ask it again. "Are we going to have breakfast tomorrow?" He realized, "You didn't used to have breakfast. You were living in an environment where you were wondering 'Are we going to have breakfast?' Yeah, we're going to have breakfast. We're going to have as much breakfast as you want."
That child, despite the fact that all authority and everything about his position has been totally changed, is living with the reality that there are still mindsets, environments, things that have shaped and impacted and formed us, and now, even though I'm over here, I can be tempted to think and wonder and be curious. "Is that how it's going to be?" Paul would say living the Christian life is that journey where you begin to walk with God, even though you are new…
You are new. Your sin doesn't define you. Your past doesn't define you. Your actions don't define you. Christ defines you. Your position in him defines you. It is done. There are moments where you may wonder, like a child who's in a new home, "Are we going to have breakfast?" From that old life, there are going to be times where control, anxiety, anger, and bitterness are going to creep in, and our role is to go, "God, will you help me cultivate the things…? I want to live like who you say I am."
Then Paul finishes with the most powerful, beautiful, incredible verse of the entire passage. He says, "Not just that, not that you just have the privilege of living underneath a new authority with a new freedom and you have the privilege of living in a new relationship where God produces the fruit in your life. You have been given the greatest gift of all…the gift of eternal life."
I want you to listen and think about how audacious these words are. You've heard them before if you were raised in church, if you were raised in Sunday school, but think about how incredibly profound this is. "For the wages of sin is death…" He contrasts sin and God. Sin always pays in death. "…but the [free] gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." He says, "Not only that, but you have the privilege of the free gift of eternal life."
What does it mean to have a free gift? I want you to think about that. God says the only way you get eternal life is by accepting a free gift. Not by earning it, not by trying for it…by accepting the free gift. What would make a gift not free? If I were to give you a gift, if I said, "Hey, here's my phone," if you were to take it and say, "You know what? I'm going to pay for it," that's not a free gift. If you decide, "Well, I need to give you something too," that's not a free gift.
The only way you get access to eternal life is by accepting the free, "no strings attached" gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, that God on the cross gave his life, lived the life you and I couldn't, and died the death we deserved so we would have the free gift of eternal life. The message of the world is that God helps those who help themselves. The message of the Bible is God helps those who can't help themselves, which is everyone.
The choice you and I have, especially if you've never had a moment where you trusted in Jesus, is…Will you accept it? I could offer a free gift, but if you don't receive it by accepting it, you have missed the greatest gift anyone could ever experience and have, the gift that seals you once and for all in the position of "in Christ," for now and all of eternity.
In some ways, the opening idea I shared of a child and this new life is so fitting, because my son did nothing to be born, nothing to have new life. He was entirely dependent on his parents and on God. The new life you and I have is entirely dependent on God, and now we are allowed to let this position impact our eternal life and our practice in this life, knowing no matter what happens, I am forgiven, I am loved, and I am free because I am in Christ. Let me pray.
Father, I thank you for every person in this room. I thank you that every one of them is someone who, whether or not they feel like they know you, you know all about them and you love them so much you would give your life and die in their place. I pray for anyone who has never accepted that truth that today would be their day.
I pray you would allow all of us who you call words that, candidly, I feel so unworthy of, like holy, righteous, forgiven, loved… Would you allow those to pierce and penetrate deeper into our hearts so that we would be free to live as we are called by you? Thank you that you paid it all. We owe you everything. We worship you now in song, amen.