Are you tired of trying to overcome sin on your own, or frustrated by your inability to follow all the rules? In the fourth week of our sermon series Dying to Live, John Elmore reminds us that following Christ is not about following rules, but rather living in relationship with Him and letting the Spirit’s power work in us.
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
Are you tired of trying to overcome sin on your own, or frustrated by your inability to follow all the rules? In the fourth week of our sermon series Dying to Live, John Elmore reminds us that following Christ is not about following rules, but rather living in relationship with Him and letting the Spirit’s power work in us.
Hey, y'all! Good morning! My name is John Elmore. I serve here with re:generation and pastoral care. Those bumper videos take me back to my club days. I can't believe I was the only one dancing. Y'all, all right, we're going to have some crowd participation today in church, if that's okay with you. We're going to do it anyway, even if it's not.
I'm going to start by telling you a true story. I want you then to tell me, not all 3,000 because that would be overwhelming, but a few of you, if you're like, "Oh, I know what that story is about," if you haven't heard it before, you can shout it out. Here we go.
Bryan went off to medical school. The intensity of studying didn't allow for much dating. He wasn't even looking for a woman, but there she was. It seemed to him, their time would be inevitable. They didn't know each other, so as with any relationship the first few times together were terribly awkward. But the more time Bryan spent with Ethel, the more he felt like himself around her. They were soon spending hours together weekly, and he became enthralled with her. He wanted to know all about her and find out what made her tick.
Physical touch became a normal thing, never inappropriate. Bryan would spend hours with Ethel and often find himself gazing in awe at her, but as the semester came to a close, the relationship abruptly ended without so much as goodbye. All along, the truth of the matter was that Bryan was, in fact, married to another girl, his college sweetheart, Heather.
What's that story about, in a word? Adultery? Infidelity? Yeah, you're wrong. This is my buddy Bryan, a fraternity brother who went off to medical school afterward. Ethel is his cadaver, donated to medical science so he could learn. It's like one of those movies where at the end, you realize, "Oh! That's what it was!" and you have to watch it again. Here it is again.
Now with that in mind, listen again. My good friend from college, Bryan, went off to medical school and the intensity of studying didn't allow for much dating. (Because he was already married, anyway.) He wasn't even looking for a woman, but there she was. It seemed to them their time would be inevitable. (Because he had to work on her.)
They didn't know each other, so as with any relationship, the first few times together were terribly awkward. (Because she was dead.) But the more time Bryan spent with Ethel, the more he felt like himself around her. They were soon spending hours together weekly, and he became enthralled with her. (This was during his lab time.)
He wanted to know all about her and find out what made her tick. (He was looking at organs and nerves and blood vessels and all that.) Physical touch would become a normal thing. (It never would be for me. I don't touch dead bodies, but he did.) Never inappropriate, Bryan would spend hours with Ethel and often find himself gazing in awe at her.
(He would say he was amazed by the creation of God as he looked at the human body.) But as the semester came to a close, the relationship abruptly ended without so much as a goodbye. (Dead people don't talk. They don't say goodbye. You don't talk to dead people.) All along, the truth of the matter was, Bryan was in fact married to another girl, his college sweetheart, Heather.
Why do I share that story? I share that story because that's how we treat God. That's how I treated God from the ages of 18 to 30. I treated God like, "Okay, you exist. Maybe you save us from hell by trusting in Jesus, but then what I'm going to do is I'm just going to get to know about you. I'm going to study this. I'm going to get to know all about you while not knowing you." And there's a huge difference.
The Pharisees were known for this. They knew all about God. They were the experts on God, but they didn't know God. So God called them. God, when he walked this earth, Jesus in flesh called them whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers, sons of hell. His harshest words were for those who knew all about him, just as Bryan knew all about Ethel, but he didn't know her. There was no relationship. There couldn't have been.
This will really mess us up. It's why they often call seminary, cemetery. Because people go to learn about God, and they wither and shrivel and die there spiritually. They know all about him. The Greek, the Hebrew, the systematic theology, all of it, and they don't know him. It's a relationship. It's all a relationship.
So I am thrilled that today we get to go through Romans 7, verses 1 through 6, because this is what messed me up in life. I thought, "Well, I trust Jesus." The gospel was presented to me as a little kid. You trust Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you won't go to hell when you die. I'm like, "Cool. Who wants to go to hell when they die? I'll take that."
Then I thought, "Now I have to follow all the rules. You saved me, so now I do what you say, right?" It sounds like a good deal, except it was horrible. It was horrible. I was a colossal, cosmic failure at following all of God's rules. So drinking, smoking, women, weed, money, porn, all of it. I just kept failing and failing and failing.
"God, I swear this is my last time. I'm not going to do it again. I won't go back again." And a day later, maybe it's that same day later, I'd be back in it again. I'm like, "Okay, right. I guess you're not to blame. It's me. I just can't follow your rules. So forget it. I'm done." I walked away, and fell just headlong into all of my sin as I walked away from God.
What we're going to see today in Romans 7 is the reality that the law is just there to reveal our sin. The law can't make us better. It has no ability…total inability…to make you better. It's just there to reveal the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God that it would move us and like propel us to surrender daily. Then the Spirit will sanctify us and lead us into the life that the law demands.
It would be the Spirit's work, and not the law's work. That's where we're going today. You're either going to live by the law or the Spirit. If you live by the law, it'll be crushing. If you live by the Spirit, it will be exalting and life-giving. Today we'll cover tattoos, mosquitos, one of the puritans John Owen, Jeremiah, and we're going to have some more crowd participation. Here we go.
Romans, chapter 7, verse 1. It'll be on the screen if you don't have it there in your Bible on your lap. "Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law…" The word brothers here? This is important. You're going to see brothers throughout in the Scriptures. It's a Greek word adelphos, and it means brothers and sisters.
It's like in Spanish, there's muchacho and muchacha, and then there is muchachos, which is all the genders. This is the same thing. When it says brothers in the Scriptures, it means brothers and sisters. It includes both genders when he says it. So brothers and sisters. The reason why that's important too is that he is talking to both? He is saying it is family.
He is saying, "Brothers and sisters," not like, "Super apostle, let me talk down to you." He is putting himself on their playing field. Like, "I'm right there with you. You're my brothers." It's denoting family. The Spirit, as penned by Paul, is saying, "You're family. You were once orphans, aliens, separated from God. Now you've been adopted by the Father, through the Son, indwelt by the Spirit."
There's so much there pregnant within the word brothers (and sisters). "…for I am speaking to those who know the law…" Paul, as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he says, of the tribe of Benjamin, as to upholding the law, zealous. He is like, "To those who know the law, I know that you know. I know you know that I know. I know the law, and I know that you know the law."
He knew the history of Judaism that early Christianity was coming out of. He says, "I'm speaking to those of you who know the law. I know that you know this, but I think you're still living like it." Because he would say elsewhere in Galatians 3, verses 2-3, he says some of the strongest words that Paul says, again by the Spirit. This isn't just Paul's idea.
"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" Dude, that's strong. He is writing to a church, to the very bride of Christ. He is writing to a church and calling them foolish. It's like, "Man, they must've stepped on your toes, Paul. What did they do?" Here's what they did. The Galatian church, they were called Judaizers.
They said, "Okay, Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. We will trust him for our justification. We'll trust him to be made right with God for the forgiveness of sins, through his death, burial, resurrection. Great. Now, though, we're going to still follow all 600-plus laws because the law is good and holy, so we are going to uphold it." To that, Paul says, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?"
He said, "This began as a work of the Spirit. You didn't decide to be saved. God saved you. This began as a work of the Spirit as God revealed the glory of Jesus in his Son, and it will continue as a work of the Spirit. You can't do this on your own. Justification, being made right with God, happened by the Spirit. Sanctification. Now, from your new birth until death. All that is sanctification, being shaped into the image of Christ will continue by the Spirit. There's no other way. You can't follow the law."
He says sooner than that in chapter 1, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Dude, Paul, you're upset about this. Yes, he is upset about this because he knows the law has total inability to sanctify us. So the sanctification happens by the Spirit. Then there's glorification as you behold Christ in heaven forevermore and we are made like him when we behold him, glorification. Those are the three tenses of salvation.
Paul is amped up because he knew the law, and he knew the law had no power to sanctify but that the Spirit does. So he is going to help them, because the law is crushing when you have sin, but the Spirit brings life. So he is so passionate about this. Going back to it, he then says that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.
Now to these people, there are kind of some fighting words there. He is like, "Wait, what? The law is binding on…? No, no." Because many of them would've been like, "No, the law is still binding. You're talking about God's Word. What are you going to do? Just throw out the law? You can't. Even Jesus said, 'You've heard it said, "Don't commit adultery." I say whoever looks lustfully…' It's not being thrown out. So what do you mean, it's not binding on us, Paul? You're telling us to not do what God says to do?"
Check this out. So listen. He is going to say, "You're going to do it, but you're not going to do it because you have to. You're going to do it because I move through you. That's the only way. That's the only way." But he says it's only binding as long as a person lives. Wait, what? It's because in Romans 6, he says the old you, who is a slave to sin, is dead. The old you is dead. The new you is wed.
The old you is dead, if you're in Christ. The new you is wed now to Christ. Dead to sin, alive to Christ, from dead to wed. There's a reality there, a profound reality, that is going to change the rest of your life. It will change you because he will change you. So in case you wonder about Romans 6 and, "Wait, really? Dead? Dead to sin? Is this really what's happening here?"
Because on the heels of this Romans 7 here, Romans 6, it's all about it. So here's the crowd participation. Any time you hear a word that has anything to do with death… So if it's dead, die, dust, baptize even, which is a picture of someone who is alive, buried, and then raised again, that would count. Crucified. That would count.
Any time you hear anything that has to do with death, I want you to clap. Okay? Here. Just so you're not the only dork clapping, let's all practice together. One, two, three, clap. Nailed it. Romans 6:1-11. "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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
No, resurrection, that's alive. You'll get it. You'll get it. That's why we're talking about it. "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing…" I'd clap for that one. "…so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin."
Now what's going on here? You're just clap happy. "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." Check this out. "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."
What's the theme of the passage? You're like, "Yeah, we clapped!" What is the theme of the passage? Death! Death! Because… No, you can stop now. The clapping is dead. Don't do that. We'll get somebody to escort you out of here. Because the old you was a slave to sin, he or she had to die. There was no other way. There's no self-help improvement program to get yourself out of sin. The only way is that that person would be crucified with Christ, buried, raised again to walk in newness of life.
The old you was under law. The law there was a crushing weight because, just like me, I couldn't uphold it. I kept messing up every single day. It was crushing. It was saying, "Hey, it's only on you, the law is only binding as long as the person lives, but you're not that anymore. You're not that person anymore. You're not better. You're new. You're born again." Ephesians 1. The Spirit now has sealed you, a deposit guaranteeing his inheritance.
I have a picture in my office. It's a self-portrait, not of me like standing in front of a mirror. It's different. I have a picture of it here on the screen. You'll see me there in the center on a cross. It's myself, being crucified. In case you're like, "Dude, that's dark," it's doctrine. It's Romans 6, and I need that reminder. I need that reminder every day. If I'm on my computer, it's right here to my left, a reminder that the old me, who was a slave to sin, who was under the law, has been crucified.
Zoom out for a minute. If you look on the left side, there is me with a noose around my neck. Sin is the nail. Consequence is that wrecking ball. There is a noose. Satan is behind the mirror. In the mirror, you can't see it close enough, but it's like a guy with a tie and a wad of cash, smiling, but he is just like decaying, dead, flies swarming all around him.
I was dead in my sin. Then those strings that are drawing me across… It was a gift, salvation. Grace was drawing me. I was called. All those things are just pulling me over to be crucified with Christ. You can see on the back side of the cross now, if you zoom in again. Christ's head on the back, his knees on the other side. It's a reality.
Then on the other side, it's just me now throwing up these paper airplanes to other people who were just like me in the same situation. They told me in the first service. They're like, "Dude, that was a trippy picture, and nobody knew what it was about. You have to explain it more." So that's what it is.
I show you that part because of the reality that the old you has been crucified with Christ, and it's so important. Because if you don't grasp that, you're just going to keep wrestling ad nauseam for the rest of your life with all the same things you struggle with, and you're going to be doing it by your own effort when you have no ability, or you're going to be doing it by the law, and you have no ability.
Here's why this is important. I don't want to take this for granted that everybody knows this because there's someone here who is like, "Wait, what?" Every religion and cult has their code of ethic, their moral book, that has law in it. So Islam does. Hindu has the Bhagavad Gita. There are all these writing that frankly, if we're honest, are false doctrines and teachings by demons, the Bible says.
Satan would lead people astray to follow other ways that are not God's ways. So they could find just death and futility in this life, and hell forever in the next, where Satan will be tormented with everlasting destruction along with the unbelievers. So I say that because this book has law as well, right? So what makes it different? This is what makes it different.
Every other religion and cult says, "If you follow the law, maybe when you die, you'll go to heaven. Maybe you might be resurrected or reincarnated as the next level and not the untouchable. Maybe you might reach nirvana if you just follow the rules." Christianity alone says, "You can't follow the rules. The rules are there to show you your sinfulness and God's holiness.
That you would throw yourself upon the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and say, 'God have mercy on me, a sinner. I place my faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins, believing that he lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and was raised again, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. I could never follow all these rules. These rules are showing me that I can't, but if you're saying you'll forgive me, then I receive that.'"
That's the good news, and no other religion has good news. It's false news. It's the good news of Jesus Christ. Verse 2 says, "For a married woman…" This passage is funny. You read this, and you're like, "Okay, tell me something I don't know." "For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." It's like, "Paul, we get it. Okay, no adultery, polygamy. We should be married to one person, and we are one flesh until the end. Great."
Laura and I are together for life, right? On our wedding band, it says on the inside, "Here's to walking home together." We are now one flesh with a portion of the Sprit, as Malachi says. We are together, locked in. We joke about. "Man, this is it. You're stuck with me." I am 10 years older than her, which is not weird. I think it's biblical. Abraham was 10 years older than Sarah.
So that's just like what we have there. I also have 10 years of alcoholism, so I think those two things combined, I'm probably going to be the one to punch out first. If and when I do, I expect you guys to find her an awesome, godly man. If you don't, I'll come up like Samuel to the witch of Endor and I'll get Old Testament on y'all. Like, "Wait, Samuel and the witch of Endor? What?"
If either one of us were to get involved with any other man or woman this side of eternity, it would be adultery. We all know that, right? It's like, "Paul, of course. Why are you telling me this? We know this." We don't know this. Do you know how we live? We're like, "Jesus, thank you for saving me from my sin."
We spend our quiet time with him, then we're like, "Cool. I'm going to go about my day now because I know what to do. I know all the life hacks. I'm good at what I do. I know the law. I know the dos and don'ts and how I'm going to do this on my own." Paul calls it adultery. He says if you trust in Jesus, and then you try to follow the law and just be a do-gooder and boot-strapper and white-knuckle and like, "Man, I'm just like goody two shoes. I kind of walk the line. I don't stray. I do good. I'm self-disciplined," he says you're an adulterer against Jesus.
Ephesians 5 says we have been wed to Christ. We are the bride of Christ, the church, and that if we now go back to following the law, we're committing adultery, whoring ourselves out to what can't sanctify us. Here's the thing. My relationship with Laura… At our marriage, we had wedding vows. We read vows to each other while holding hands. "For better, for worse, in sickness and health, until death do us part, for richer, for poorer, blah, blah, blah."
Do you know what? I don't read those every day. I said them once. I don't get up every day, and be like, "Okay, okay. Here we go again. For better, for worse. Okay, got it. Richer, poorer, great." I don't do that. I don't do that. It's love. It's the relationship that moves me to do the things I do in my marriage.
It leads me to bend down in the shower and pull out her nasty two-foot-long clump of hair like, "I know you saw that. There's no way you didn't see that dead rat clump of hair, but I'll get it. It's not in the vows, but I'm going to get it. I'm going to get it. I know when you made it to the kitchen sink with your plate, it was too much to get it to the dishwasher, so I'm going to get it. I'm going to get it. That wasn't in the vows, but I'm going to do it."
I'm kind of passive-aggressive, huh? I'm like, "No, it's cool. You don't have to do your dishes. It'll just end up in a sermon illustration. I don't care. Six thousand people know you don't do your dishes. You pick." I don't say that because I'm like the penultimate husband. It's because my love for Laura… Well, sometimes I do it begrudgingly, but a lot of times it's because I love her. It's what we do. She helps me. I help her. We're in a relationship.
That's what moves me to do those things, not some rule that says, "Thou shalt pull my hair out of the drain." I don't do that, but I'm moved to because of our love and our relationship. So it is with God. Let me prove it to you. Not by Romans 7, but the totality of Scripture. That's the thing. You can't cherry pick a verse and be like, "I think this is what it means." There's a correlation throughout Scripture.
So in Ezekiel 36, he writes by the prophet Ezekiel the prophecy of what's to come in the new covenant with Jesus. He says this. "And I will put my Spirit within you…" God will put his Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us. "…and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."
It doesn't say, "And I will put my Spirit within you and ask you to walk in my statutes, to tell you to walk in my statutes, to demand that you walk in my statutes." He says, "I will cause you to do this because my Spirit will be in you. You can't, but I can, so I'm going to lead you in that because of this relationship that we will be in. I will live inside of you and compel you and move you through that."
Let me tell you, as a recovering alcoholic, when I tried to quit drinking, I knew it was wrong. I had doctors tell me, "You keep doing this, you're going to die." My drinking friends would tell me it was wrong. My family told me it was wrong. I knew it was wrong, and I tried to quit on my own and it was so exhausting. A wimp. I didn't want to do it. I was like a baby that you took away their pacifier, and now it's just mad. You took away my peace. It was horrible. I was manic. I was depressed. I was angry, terrible to be around.
Then I tried quitting with God's strength. I brought God into the fight. "I can't. I've heard you can." When I quit drinking by God's strength, do you know what it looked like? Dude, I'm smiling from ear to ear. I'm singing songs. People are like, "What's gotten into you? Not only did you quit drinking, you changed."
Because I was born again and now walking by the Spirit. I wasn't even concerned about the drinking because it wasn't my concern. The Spirit is the one who is doing that work. I didn't have a knowledge problem. I knew that it was wrong. I did not have a knowledge problem. I had a power problem. I didn't have, you don't have, the power to kill sin. That's the Spirit's job. You have no ability.
So when you stop striving to get rid of whatever it is, the thing that you're so exhausted by, the porn, the masturbation, the sleeping with your girlfriend, the nagging, the controlling, the anxiety, the worry, whatever it is that's just crushing you… When you stop trying on your own effort and like, "I can't. I've heard you can. Will you help me?" it'll go from exhausting to exalting.
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Verse 4: "Likewise, my brothers…" Again, he is like, "Remember, you're family." Likewise what, Paul? Well, likewise you remember you're dead. You're not under the law anymore. Remember likewise the whole, "Married to Christ, dead to the law," all that?
"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ…" It was through the body of Christ, crucified with him, that we died to the law so that… Why? Why? Why does that matter? Why did it happen? "…so that you may belong to another…" This is the old you is dead, the new you is wed. You belong to Jesus. Who do we belong to? "…to him who has been raised from the dead…" Why? "…in order that we may bear fruit for God."
Isaiah says, "…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory…" You were made to just throw off glory for God, to throw off fruit. It'll say in the next verse that we bear fruit for death when we're under the law and sin, that what we're throwing off is sin. I know that full well, but in Jesus, by the Spirit, we throw off fruit in order that we may bear fruit for God.
The Westminster Catechism says that we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This is the truth of this. So here are a few things. John Owen, a great Puritan theologian, talks about two things. We always talk about the positive work of the Holy Spirit. This is Galatians 5, the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, all the things we memorized that we think we should do, and we can't. It's him who bears that fruit. It's not our fruit. It's his fruit.
Owen says we don't talk about the "negative work" of the Holy Spirit. When I first read that, I'm like, "Negative work of the Holy Spirit? Dude, Owen is a heretic. Nothing the Spirit does can be negative." It's like no, that's positive. The negative is when he kills sin. This is he produced good fruit, and on this side, his other job, his other role or function of the Holy Spirit, is to kill sin. We can't. He can. It's his job. He kills sin.
I came in from work one day, and my wife had our "To-do" list. It was like, "Take out the trash. Fix the door. Kill the mosquitos." I was like, "What? Kill the mosquitos? Do you want me to print the Internet? Cure cancer? Boil the ocean? Kill the mosquitos? What are you talking about? We live in Texas." She's like, "Mm-hmm. Would you like a number?"
I was like, "Oh, okay." I call the company. I'm like, "Yeah, I'm calling about mosquitos." They're like, "Mm-hmm. Yep. We'll send somebody right out." Dude, the mosquitos were gone. They're like, "Yeah, when you see another one." Because I'm like, "Look guys, they fly. Our neighbor's yard didn't get treated. So the neighbor mosquitos, they're going to come over."
They're like, "Yep, they probably will. When they do, call us. We'll come back out for free. We'll take care of it." Dude. They did. It worked. I was like, "Oh man, that's our wrestle with sin." How stupid would it look if Laura is like, "Kill the mosquitos," and I'm out there like… "Oh, there's one on your back! Oh, hey!" It's asinine. I could never do it. It's like a billion to one. They are impossible odds. I would look dumb. It would be exhausting.
Instead, I call the power greater than me, "Hey, come kill the mosquitos." They're like, "Fog the yard. Done." It's what we do with God. We'll say, "Lord, I can't. You can." He is like, "I just wanted you to ask. I'm on it." What if it comes back? He is like, "It'll come back. Your sin will come back hourly, daily." "What do I do then? Does it mean I failed?" "No, you can't. You call me, I'll do it. It's what I do, the negative work of the Holy Spirit. I'm the sin killer."
Owen says it this way. "What then is holiness?" So holiness is to be sanctified into the image of Christ. "What then is holiness? Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and living out of the gospel in our souls." We so often compartmentalize the gospel as, "Well, this is when I was saved, justified, right with God, put my faith in Jesus. That's there. That was like 15 years ago."
Owen is like, "Wait, no. The gospel is every single day. It's the good news that saved you and that keeps you safe. The law can't." He goes on to say, "So God, as the author of our peace, is also the author of our holiness." He is the one who creates the image of Christ in you, who shapes you. The law can't. "The foundation of all mortification of sin…" Meaning putting sin to death. "…is from the inhabitation of the Spirit within us." Listen. "…and by no other power is it to be brought about…"
Because remember, Paul is like, "Hey, the law? No. No. You're not… This is by the Spirit." Verse 5: "For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death." For the last three years, if you go to re:gen or if you're in my Community Group, you have heard me confess one thing in particular. I bet there's a re:gen person who can say it. What do I confess?
John: No, that was a long time ago, but… If there was alcohol, we'd have a big problem. Being harsh with my children. That's what I… I'll raise my voice. I'll be sharp with them. I'll grit my teeth, and be like, "You know you're supposed to…" I'm just, like, mean. I know it's wrong. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children…" Paul writes in Ephesians otherwise. I know it's wrong. I don't have a knowledge problem. I have a power problem.
Now somehow, just like alcohol, I asked God to free me from that, and it's like spiritual amnesia. I've forgotten how I get free from this. So just 12 days ago, I'm having lunch with this guy. He is like, "Yeah man, me too. I'm harsh with my kids." I'm like, "Hey, let's start daily proactive accountability and ask God to kill this sin within us." Do you know what? We're 12 days running without being harsh with our kids.
It's… Y'all, it's all the Spirit doing it. I can't. For three years, y'all. I think it's like when my kid went to kindergarten or something, just all the pressure and stress. It certainly wasn't my sin, but something. He is at work now setting me free. So every day, I'm on my knees like, "God, I can't. You can," and he is doing it. We're no longer bearing fruit for death; we're bearing fruit for God.
Verse 6 says, "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive…" We're released from the law, having died to that which held us captive. When I was a drunk living down in Austin, Texas, I hated the police. I hated them. They were like the buzzkill of the city. If I had weed in the car, I had to figure out where to hide it in case they had a sniffing drug dog.
My friends and I would figure out where the checkpoints were. If they ever pulled us over, which they did, it was like, it was always, "I've had two," not 12. It was just like I hated them. There was this citywide cat-and-mouse game with the police. The reason why? Because I was the one doing wrong. I was afraid of the public intoxication, the DUI, the possession of weed. It was me. I was the problem. The police weren't the problem; it was me.
Guess what? I love the police now. I respect them. They're Romans 13. They're the authority that God has placed over cities for our protection and as the sword of righteousness against evil. Now I didn't just wake up one day and be like, "You know what? I've given them a hard time. I should really start liking them." Nor did they help me get better. z
The police have no ability to make me better or you better. All they do is call balls and strikes. "You're speeding. You ran the stop sign. You have a bag of weed. You're swerving. I think you're drunk." They're just there to say when we are out of the law, but they have no ability to make you a better person. That's not their job. It's the same as the law.
Right here where it says, "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive…" The Spirit is the one who improves us. He is the one who shapes us. He is the one who regenerates us, making us more like Christ. The law doesn't have that power, just like the police don't have that power.
The law just tells us when we're out of bounds of the sin and holiness of God. The Spirit is the one doing this in us. Jesus won't make you better; he'll make you new. Now when I see police, my heart doesn't palpitate because I'm like, "Dude, I'm clean. You can pull me over. There's nothing in the car. I'm stone cold sober." I roll down the windows with the kids. I'm like, "Hey, put your window down. You lean over. Tell them, 'Thank you for serving,'" because we'd be in a bad place if they weren't.
It says later on in the verse, "…so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." The new way of the Spirit, not in the old way of the written code. For this, go back to Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31:31 says, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD…" This was about 700 years before the birth of Christ.
"…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband…" Do you remember that whole adultery with the law thing? He is like, "I was their husband, and I gave them the covenant of the law of blessings and curses. You follow the law? Then you get blessings and curses." He is saying, "I'm going to make a new one."
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD…" Listen. "…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." When the Bible says heart it's kardia. It's your spirit. It's there within us by the Spirit, not this. "And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." How good is God?He knows we can't, so he does.
Laura is battling breast cancer right now. She is going to be good. She starts radiation on Monday for the next month. Here's the deal. She got a scan. That's how they found it, but she didn't continue to get scans. It was like, "Got a scan. Okay, you have cancer. You need to go see a surgeon." Because the surgeon can remove it. The scan can't remove it.
Here's the thing. She's going to keep getting scans the rest of her life. They told us, "Hey, because this happened, you're going to be a frequent flier for mammograms and scans and biopsies and all that because we just have to make sure that it doesn't come back, because it can." What she is going to do… So that scan is like the Word. James says it's the mirror to our soul.
This is the scan that we would put over our heart. It will show us when there's something that shouldn't be there, but the scan can't remove the cancer. The Word can't remove the cancer. The Word is there to show us when we have the sin. Then we go to the doctor, the one who heals, the surgeon, the radiation oncologist. Man, there are so many terms and words and all that.
She is going to see him daily, and he is going to do the work. She can't. Hers is just to reveal, and be like, "I have cancer." Ours to reveal we have sin, an analogy. Then they do the work. The Great Healer does the work. The sin is there, revealed by the law. I think so often we say to God, "You saved me. Thank you for saving me. I law you. I law you. I follow all your ways. I law you."
It's like, "No, no. I want you to love me. I want you to be in relationship with me, not like you're dissecting a cadaver to know all about me. I want you to know me, not about me. You have to walk with me. You can't do this. Don't law me; love me." I think so often, too, we flip it on him. We say, "That's how you see me. You say I law you."
"No. No. You've misunderstood. That's why I sent Jesus. I love you. I love you. I don't law you. The law is there just that it would move you toward me, that you would know your need for a Savior because of your sin." The law is only there for that reason, to show you that you're in desperate need of a Savior.
This past summer, my oldest son and I were kind of zig-zagging in New Mexico when I saw this billboard for Carlsbad Caverns. I've seen those billboards all over the nation for all my life. I didn't know what it was or where it was. I'm like, "Dude, we're like miles away from this. We should go." He didn't know what it was either.
It is this massive… It is one of the largest cave system in North America. One of the rooms is 8.2 acres. What? This auditorium would easily fit within just that room. It's dark, y'all. It's dark. There are phones stationed throughout in case you get lost in this labyrinth of tunnels and darkness so that you can call the park ranger and be like, "I'm at phone number four. I don't know how to get out of here. Whatever."
So my son thinks it's all fun and what not. We're going to down and kind of holding hands. Every now and then I'd be like, "Hey, stand over there. Hang on. I'm going to take a picture." There's a picture of him and me in the cave. I'd step back to take a picture, and as soon as I snapped it, he would run over and grab my hand. I'd be reading the sign and we'd get separated, and I could feel his hand grab me. He is 7. He is a brave, tough kid. He is awesome, but he is like, "Dad, don't let go of my hand."
Do you know what it says in Ephesians 6? "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness…" That spiritually, we are in a present darkness, just like that cave. I think I'm probably not the only one in the room who is like, "Jesus, you saved me, but I know what to do now. I'm good. I'm going to follow the rules."
We're in this present darkness, and God is just saying, "Just hold my hand. Just hold my hand. I have you. I'm going to lead you through this present darkness." We know right after in Ephesians 6, if you've studied your Bible you know it's like, "Oh yeah, that's the armor of God passage, helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, feet of the gospel. I got it, memorized it, and drew a little picture when I was a kid."
Do you know what we leave out? Do you know what we leave out? The Spirit. Because after Ephesians 6, in the armor of God, we leave out the person of God! We're like, "Give me the armor of God. I got it. I got it from here." It's like, "What? Keep reading." Verse 18: "…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…"
He is imploring us, like, "Now that you're armed up, you come with me. Grab my hand. We're going together. You can't go without me. Don't go off into battle thinking that you have the armor of God on without the person of God! The only way you're going to make it through this presence of darkness is with my hand. I will lead you. I will kill sin. I'll bear fruit to the glory of God. There's no other way, child, and to do otherwise is adultery against Christ. Hold my hand. We're walking together. We're going to make it, and it's going to be glorious."
It will be Christ exalting. It will lift you up, but to do otherwise is adultery and death. Church, will you do it? Grab the hand of the Spirit. Stop trying to follow rules. Follow that relationship. Follow the relationship. Not, "I law you. I love you." Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. We're like, "That's weird. Why?" Because you can't, so he did it for us. Now his Spirit in us will move us to that end. Please pray with me.
O Father, it was a crushing weight. I remember the crushing weight of the law. Knowing I do so much wrong and I keep messing up. I hated myself, and I distanced from you, but in your kindness and grace, you have taught me, Lord, that the only way is by you, in you, by you, through you. There's such life and peace in that. We don't have to struggle and strain because the law can never sanctify. That's the Spirit's job, and he delights to do it. We need only ask. So may we be a church holding the hand, walking in step with the Spirit in prayer, following in love, not rules. Amen.