Well, good morning everybody, and we also want to welcome those who watch via the internet and our mobile app. And I want to give a shout-out to Becky and Juno, our missionaries in the Philippines. Can we give them a big shout-out? We love you all. And, we also have a group of people that watch us in Africa as well and send our messages forth to people. So, that’s awesome. We’ve got some great stuff going on.
But, welcome to everybody. And, I want to catch everybody up. I never assume that you’ve been here last week. I always assume that I’m speaking to people that are maybe catching this the second week into a five-week series. And, even if you’re watching via the internet, this might be the first series that you watch and you’re part of a five-week series and we’re in the second week. And, the series is called “Distractions.”
And so that everybody’s brought up to speed about what we’re doing here, we’re talking bout the distractions in our lives that we often overlook that rob us or keep us from living out God’s best.
And, I want to sort of just take a minute here and just bring everybody back up to speed. We all got distractions in our lives. We all know that. But, what I want to look at in the series are the ones that we often overlook. We tend to, as people, look at symptoms rather than root causes. And, oftentimes when we’re looking at the things that we’re distracted to, we’re not dealing with the real issues and those real issues will rob us and keep us from living out God’s best.
I’d like to say this and I want everybody to listen: I don’t know of a more distracting issue in our lives – and I’m going to tell you, some of you may be new here today. Maybe you got drug in. Maybe you got a flyer. Maybe you saw us at First Friday. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how this thing works out or why you’re in church or whatever. But, you know this and I know this and everybody in here knows this. There’s probably nothing more debilitating in the church and for those outside of the Church than guilt. Can I get an “amen” on that one?
There have been people that have left church, people that won’t go back to church and all of these things because of guilt. In fact, guilt is so sort of normal in church that we even put denominational names before guilt. Do you know what I’m talking about? Like we say, “You’ve got some good Baptist guilt going on ya. Or some good Catholic guilt going on ya.”
Or whatever. And I’m not – listen, if you’re Baptist or Catholic and you’re watching, I’m not making fun of anybody’s denomination, I’m just saying that guilt is a big thing in the church and a lot of people left church because of guilt.
Now, to be fair to guilt, there’s two types. There’s convicting guilt, which is not bad guilt. Anybody ever – you don’t even have to raise your hand – But, anybody ever said something to their spouse that they wish they wouldn’t have said and then there’s that little Jiminy Cricket moment where you go, “Man, I need to go tell Momma I’m sorry.” Or, “I need to go tell Papa Bear that I shouldn’t have said that.”
And, that’d a good thing, you know? We respond to that and It’s a good thing. But, the one we need to deal with is this condemning guilt. This big bag that we carry around with us that just absolutely debilitates us from living life and it’s stuff that maybe we did a week ago. Some of it’s five years ago. In fact, I’m counseled people that are carrying stuff around that they did 20 years ago. Just carrying it around and it just keeps them from living life. And, here’s the way it works.
It’s maybe something I did. You know? “I did this. I wish I wouldn’t have done this and I’m carrying it with me.”
Or, here’s the twofer. Something I wish I did. Because, see, when you wish that you did something, you actually did something in it’s place so, you get double guilt because, “I wish I would’ve done this, but instead I did this.” And, you carry that around with you and some of you right now are going, “Man, he is just reading my mail. I’ve got a load of guilt.”
Well, that’s why we’re here today. We’re going to try to unload that guilt. Last night, when we walked out of here, a gentleman looked at me and he said, “I want to let you know something. I left the biggest bag of guilt in there in the sanctuary and I’m leaving out of here feeling good.”
And, that’s what I want for everybody here. But, this is the way guilt works.
Something I did – “I can’t believe I did this.” – Something I wish I did, or something I think I did. Some of you all do that, right? We’ve done that before. You think you did something and, whether you did it or not, you feel guilt about it. Here’s the big one though, man. When you didn’t do enough. Man, you put like a performance related understanding of God with some good guilt and some good religion and I didn’t do enough. And, man, you will absolutely be in the lowest place in the world. And, I want to just stop here for a second because I don’t assume that everybody knows where I’m coming from and – even those who watch via the internet and mobile app – I want to make sure you understand something.
We do not come to God based on performance. If it’s based on performance, none of us are going to get in. Can I say that again? If it’s based on our performance, we’re not going to get in. It’s based on what God has done for us. But, the problem is is when we’ve got these ideas of who God is and we’ve got to work all this stuff out and then we didn’t do enough. Man, it is just absolutely overwhelming.
Or this one here: How about doing better than you? Some people feel guilty because they go, “Oh, I’m doing better than them.” Or, you know, you’ve got a brother or sister or family member you feel bad because they’re struggling and not doing well. But, the fact of the matter is this: We all know what guilt is and we all know what it’s like to struggle with guilt.
And, I want to, as a pastor, help you to get past your distraction of guilt. Because, guilt will have you doing things that you shouldn’t be doing. Guilt will have you saying this that you shouldn’t be saying. Guilt will distract you in so many ways and rob you from all of God’s best. But, here’s what I’ve got to have you do. I need you to lean in here and listen very carefully. And, if you’re at your computer screen, get closer to your computer screen, okay? Or your phone.
Listen to me. This is important. I need every single one of you – I don’t care what you’ve read. I don’t care what you’ve heard. I don’t care what DVD system you like to pass out to people or what books you think set you free. I want you to drop all of that right now because I’m not going to be able to communicate to some people if they put these filters up of all the things they already think about guilt, condemnation and righteousness and all of that stuff. Because, what you’re going to do is you’re going to screen everything I say through that filter and it’s not going to get to you. I’ve got to communicate this to you and, what I need everybody to do is to just drop everything.
I don’t care what you think or what you believe at this point. I don’t care what books you’ve given to people or what DVDs you’ve watched. I don’t care what preachers you’ve seen. I want you to just stop for a moment and just listen to what I have to say to you, sharing from my heart, because if you listen through the filter, I don’t think we’re going to be able to communicate in the way that I want to communicate today. Because, I really want to see you leave out of here free from guilt with all of my heart.
So, here’s what I’m going to do. The book of Romans is probably one of the most important books in all of Christian history. You know, granted, we have 66 books. None are necessarily more important than the other. But, the book of Romans has been a huge book. throughout the history of church. And, the problem we have, historically as Christians, – and especially for those here in the West – what we do is is we read the Bible devotionally. And, there’s nothing wrong with that.
As your pastor, I want you in the Word of God. I don’t care where you start and I don’t care where you stop. I want you in the Word of God. In fact, I had somebody tell me, “Just this last week, I’ve spent some time in the Bible and it really changes my life.” It will. Even if you don’t – sometimes you don’t even know what you’re reading. Sometimes you’re like, “What does that mean?” And you leave and you go, “Man, God’s doing some stuff in my life. I didn’t even know what I read but He’s doing something.” So, read your Bible, okay? But, with that being said, when we read the Bible, because we read it devotionally, oftentimes we don’t see how the particulars fit into the whole.
And, what I mean by that is that very rarely do I find Christians who take a book and start the beginning and read it to the end and don’t jump around. They start at the beginning and they read it to the end and then they go, “I’m going to do it again. I’m going to start at the beginning and read it to the end.” And then, they start at the beginning and read it to the end to where they know that book inside and out and, if you were to ask them about that book, they could just tell you, right off the top of their head, every single chapter and everything that’s going on. That’s when you really know the book.
The book of Romans unfortunately, because we read it devotionally, we’ve got people that pull different sections out and say, “This is here and this is here and that’s what’s here.” And, it sounds good when you read the book, but it’s not necessarily true to the overall argument of the book of Romans. And so, what I want to do is I want to, in a very short period of time, I want to try to walk through a little bit of the book of Romans. That’s the first thing I want to do.
And then the second thing I want to do is I want to introduce a concept to you that’s foreign to many of us in the West, but it’s an incredibly Biblical concept. And, if we put these two things together, I think we’re going to understand some things Paul’s saying and I really believe it will change your life.
So, here we go. In Romans chapter one, two and three, – and, before I say this, go home and read Romans 1-8 this week. Just do it after I preach on this. Watch this message again. Read it again. I really believe this will help you. So, in Romans chapters one, two and three, what Paul is dealing with is what we call universal guilt or universal sin or universal unrighteousness or universal ungodliness. You can call it whatever you want to call it. We all know. Every single one of us knows that our Momma told us not to get in that cookie jar and, when she wasn’t looking, we were in that cookie jar.
Can I get an “amen” on that one? Because, we all know that we did that. None more than me because my dad was a dentist and wouldn’t let us eat sweets. So, I was in that thing every time they turned their back. I’m still working through that bondage at 46 years old. Anyways. So, the deal is is in Romans 1, Paul says, “Look, here’s what I want to introduce to you” after he does a little bit of his greetings. He says, “I want to talk to you about the Gospel. I want to talk to you about this good news.” And, he takes eight chapters to talk about the Gospel and what the Gospel is. He says, “This is the Gospel.”
But, there’s a problem. And, there’s a reason why there’s a Gospel. Because people (Gentiles), instead of worshiping God, they decided to go worship all kinds of other things and doing all kinds of other stuff. And, it led them to where they’re at today. And, in case you’re wondering, the Jewish people who had the law, okay? Nothing wrong with the law. But, they had the law. What they did is they didn’t keep it.
So, even though they had the law, they didn’t keep it. They might have convinced themselves that they kept it, but they didn’t keep it. So, everybody, no matter who they are – whether you’re Gentiles running after this or you’re Jewish people convincing yourself that you’re keeping the law – none of y’all got it right, Paul says. At all. And, He’s not saying that from a position of superiority or anything like that. He’s saying that from a position of honest truth.
He says, “This is where we’re at.” And, all of us know that. Even if you’re not a Christian here today, you know all of us have some issues going on down under the hood. You open the hood up and you go, “Woo! That’s not too good.” And you want to shut the hood. We all know that we have that. We’ve all had that moment. “Woo!” Okay? It’s there and we’ve got to deal with what that is. And then, we deal with all this guilt and all this other stuff. I’m trying to give you some answers that will help you in your life.
So, Paul says, “Here’s the deal.”
Romans 3. He says, “Here’s the conclusion of the fact of one and two.”
He says in Romans 3:10, “There’s none righteous. No, not one.”
In other words, nobody’s got this thing completely together. And then he says in Romans 3:23, he says, “All have sinned…” – that’s a past tense – “All have sinned back then and all continually fall short of the glory of God.”
That is a continual thing. We all fall short of the glory of God. Now, if Paul would have ended there, it wouldn’t be good news. But he says, “That’s where we’re at. That’s the situation that we find ourselves.”
Now, how does God deal with that? And Paul says – and this is where some of you all are going to have to put that filter down – Paul says, “The answer to the guilt is as old as the Bible.”
It’s not that the Old Testament’s bad and all the law’s bad and all this stuff’s horrible and all this stuff’s bad and it’s no good and then we finally get to the New Testament and everything is good and it was terrible back then. It was all bad. No good. And now, it’s all good. He says that’s not the case.
He says, “The way God dealt with this has been the same from the very beginning.” And, he takes you all the way back to Genesis chapter 15 and he says, “There was a man named Abraham, and Abraham believed God.”
And when Abraham believed God, God said, “You’re righteous. You’re no longer guilty.”
And then, God says, “Okay, Abraham. We’ve got a thing going on, right?”
Abraham’s like, “We’ve got a thing going on, man. I believe you and I like it that I’m righteous. That’s good stuff.”
God says, “Alright, so let’s do a covenant.”
And, Abraham says, “Amen. I know what that is.”
And, many of us don’t know what a covenant is. In the ancient Near East, the way they would do it is this: You know, you and I sign like a contract when we buy a car and that means you’ve got to pay your bills. You all know you’ve got to pay your bills when you sign those things, right? Just making sure. Okay? So, you’ve got to pay your bills. You’ve got your performance. They’ve got their performance; you’ve got your performance. It’s like a contract, okay? So, covenant was basically very similar in the sense that there were recommendations or there were things that you had to do. Okay?
So, God says, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get some animals and cut them up.”
So, he cuts up all these animals and there’s all this blood in between these animals. Very common in the ancient Near East. I mean, this is a barbaric society. I mean, can you imagine doing that today?
“You want to buy that car? Go over there and get that cow. Let’s cut it in half.”
You’d be like, “What?”
So, anyway. Cut all this stuff in half. And, Abraham knows that the gig is. He’s going to walk through those animals and God’s going to walk through those animals and they’re going to stand there together and they’ll shake hands and agree that this is what I do and this is what you do and if you break your part of the deal, you’re going to get cut up like these animals. It’s like a serious moment. So, right as it’s about time for Abraham to walk through and God to walk through, God puts Abraham to sleep. He puts him to sleep. And you go, “What is He putting him to sleep for?”
Because, He knew Abraham wasn’t going to keep His part of the deal. So, God walks through by Himself because God knows He’ll keep His part. Abraham won’t keep his part. That’s what He does. So, Paul says, “You get that chapter 4? Good.”
He goes, “So, now you understand that chapter 5. You’ve got peace with God through Jesus Christ your Lord. But, you probably get the Abraham thing somewhat, but you’re Romans, you’re Gentiles, you’ve got some Jews there. Let me make sure you understand this. Because, God did sort of the same thing for you. Because, when you were sinners, Jesus died for you. Romans 5:8. So, I want you to try to get the situation here that you can understand.”
And so, here’s the way it worked: Adam sinned and everybody got guilty. Jesus died on the cross and everybody has the provision for forgiveness because where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. And, I know Paul says how you’re going to think, because I know how some of you all think. You’re going to think, “Well, man. That is a fantastic gig. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. So, let’s do some sinning, baby! I mean, lets get that grace going!”
Paul says in Romans 6:1, he goes, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” He’s like, “God forbid.”
Actually, Greek is “me genoito” which means, “May it never enter into your mind.”
And he says, “Here’s why. Because, when you got dumped in the Baptismal pool, what happened was is that you went under the waters and you came up in newness of life. You went down in the waters dead to sin, dead to the law and all of this stuff and you came up in newness of life.”
Okay, we’re tracking with this. Everything’s good. Everything’s fine until we get to Romans 6:11. Paul says, “Okay, don’t continue in sin because you’re dead to sin. Sin’s going to have no longer dominion over you. None of that stuff.”
And then he says in Romans 6:11, he says, “So, here’s the deal. Consider yourself dead to sin.”
And you say, “Whoa now. Hold on Paul. You just told me I was dead to sin. Now you’re telling me to consider I’m dead to sin? Which one is it, buddy? Which one is it?”
If you’re reading the Bible, you should have that moment where you go – like when you’re reading in Ephesians and Colossians and He says, “The old man has been put off” and then he tells you to “put off the old man.”
You’re going, “Hold on. Is it off or is it not off? Which one is it?”
Like Jesus, when he comes along, He says, “You see these demons getting cast out? See them casting out? The Kingdom of God is here.”
And He says, “The Kingdom of God is going to come.”
You go, “What? Whoa. Hold on. Is it here or is it not here?”
Then you’re reading the Bible and you go, “Mary and Joseph are married. They’re married. But, nine months later they’re going to get married.”
And we go, “Hold on for a minute. That don’t work. It’s either you’re married or you’re not married.”
Not in that culture. They had no problem with these concepts because they had a different worldview. Our worldview is just cut and dry, black and white, everything has to make sense and everything has to be the bottom line. Bottom line was that Mary and Joseph were married. They were as married as married could be. Nobody thought they weren’t married. And, the way the marriage thing worked is that when you were married, you took nine months.
Why’d you take nine months? Because, you want to make sure that your wife’s not pregnant in the middle of that. You want to make sure she’s pure because, you know if all of a sudden Junior comes along, it’s not your Junior. You follow how that works? That’s why, when Mary all of a sudden starts showing, Joseph’s like, “What do I do with this chick? Because, that ain’t my baby.”
Okay? So, you’re married but then nine months later, after Joseph has gone and put the house together and got everything together, they come and they consummate the marriage in finality. So, there’s a part that now is what it is and then there’s a part that’s over here not yet. And this brings us to the most important aspect of reading the Bible.
It’s what is called a “now/not yet” understanding of scripture. In other words, there are things that God says about you and me that are now. But, they’re also not yet. And, even though they’re now, they’re still not yet. So, I was praying, “God, can you give me some help to understand this?”
Because, these people are going to think I’m crazy. They’re not going to know what’s going on. They’re not going to readily get it.
And so, I started praying, “God, give me an analogy.”
Let me tell you something. When you pray, man, God answers it. And man, His answer, I’m still struggling with His answer. Because, we got up, man. We were going to Jamaica. Me and Mindy had got Sandals Resort. We’re going to Jamaica, man. And, we get up and one of our passports is expired (it wasn’t mine) and we realize we’ve got to go to Naples. You know? So, rather than being in the Calypso music and all of the blue sea, I go to Naples and people are selling Ex-Lax on the corner and doing all this stuff. And so, I go to Naples, I wake up on my birthday and, when I wake up, on my phone it’s vibrating and it’s my bank app telling me there’s fraud going on in my account.
I’m like, “Aww, man. What a way to start off my birthday.” So, lo and behold, there was this bank right across the street from where we were staying. My bank. So, I stroll in there on my birthday and I walk in and I say, “Hey, I got a little problem here. There’s some money that’s been taken out of my account.”
It was quite a bit of money, too.
So, they said, “Yep. There’s been fraud. It’s fraud.” And they went back and said, “Dr. Bennett, here’s what happened. You had 53 cents taken out 4 days ago and then 67 cents taken out 2 days ago and then today, they got 5,000 and another 5,000.”
And I was like, “Man, that’s a lot of money. Can you please put that back in my account because, you don’t understand, I’ve got like 35 kids and $10,000 is like 1 trip to McDonalds. So, I need that money.”
So, they said to me, “Well, here’s the way it works. It’s out of your account.”
I’m like, “So, I can’t access it?”
They’re like, “You can’t access it.”
I’m like, “So, it’s out of my account? Okay. Great. And it’s in their account? It’s credited to their account. Oh, that’s fantastic. Awesome.”
“But, because you got down here, it’s really not in their account.”
I’m like, “Hold on for a second. Hold on. Okay. It’s not in my account, but it’s in their account.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s credited to their account. If they pulled their bank thing out, it would be in their account. But, it’s not there because there’s this thing called ‘pending.’”
I’m like, “Okay. Okay.”
Then I’m like, “God, you dirty rat! Yeah, you’re giving me an analogy here, but I wanted to be in Jamaica.”
So, I said, “Well, how’s this going to work?”
They said, “Well, we’re going to put it back into your account.”
I said, “Fantastic. When’s that going to happen?”
They said, “It will happen on Tuesday because this is Friday and Monday is a holiday, Memorial Day, Tuesday is the first business day.”
I’m like, “Fantastic. So, on Tuesday, it’s going to be in my account.
“Tuesday, it’s going to be in your account. But, you can’t access it.”
I’m like, “Hold on for a second. It’s either in there or it’s not in there, Johnny.”
I don’t know what his name was. Johnny or Frank or whatever it was. I’m like, “Hold on for a minute. It’s in there?”
He’s like, “It’s in there. In fact, it’s so in there that if you went down to the bank and you want to draw a loan on that, it’s in there. But, you can’t have it for a couple days after it’s in there.”
And I’m like, “Hold on for a second. So, I’ve got it now, but I really don’t have it until the not yet?”
And he’s like, “That’s exactly right.”
And I said, “There you go. I’ve got my analogy. Right there.”
My analogy. That’s the way the Bible’s written. Okay? And, here’s where we’re going to have to understand what’s going on. In Romans, Paul is dealing with the Gospel all the way through. Okay? All the way through he’s dealing with the Gospel. In chapter 6, he lays out the fact that you’re dead to sin, but you’re not really dead to sin. Because, you are dead to sin. You really are. But, you’ve got to consider it because sin’s still not gone yet. We’re still waiting for the not yet. Best way to understand this is this: Jesus died on the cross and said, “It is finished” and the curtain went down.
Sometimes, the curtains going to go back up and He’s going to take a bow. And, we live in between those two eras in our life. And, not understanding that will mess you up when you read the Bible because you’ll go to one extreme or the other and there’ll always be passages that you don’t know what to do with because they’re dealing with different things. Some are in the now, some are in the not yet, and it’s important that we get that.
So Paul, as he lays out what it looks like to be a Christian life and what it looks like to live out this Christian life, he says, “You’ve been dead to sin but you need to consider yourself dead to sin.”
And he says, “The law, when you went under the waters, you’re dead to the law. But, there’s still this residual fact of things that you struggle with.”
And he deals with that in Romans 7. Now, we’re going to deal with Romans 7:15-8:4. Follow along. You’ll understand this. Get out of your system whatever you brought in here. Let the word of God speak to you.
Romans 7:15-8:4, “For I do not understand my own actions.” – There’s nobody in this room that cannot say “amen” to that if you are a Christian. You do understand that you do things sometimes that you don’t understand why you did them.
“I do not understand…” – I underlined a bunch of these “do’s” because there’s a lot of do do in this stuff here and we’re going to get to the “done” in a minute. Okay?
So, “I do not understand…” – y’all have got dirty minds. I know the online people, y’all are good.
Always, so, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Some of you are going, “Man. This is the greatest teaching I’ve ever heard because that’s where I’m at.”
Yes. Let’s flesh this out. Get all that stuff you think out of your system. Listen to what Paul says.
He says, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” The law’s not bad. I have people all the time going, “Law’s horrible. Law’s terrible.”
Law’s not bad. There’s nothing wrong with the law. Paul is going to tell you what the problem is. It ain’t the law. It’s you and me. And, it’s called sin. He says, “I want to do the right thing, but I don’t do it. And, the fact that I even want to do it at this point means the law’s good. But, if it’s no longer I who do it…” – remember, He died and He’s risen. He’s dead. – “I’m not doing it because I really want to do the right things right now. But, there’s something else that’s going on within me that’s sort of making this thing happen.”
I know I died now, but I’m really not fully dead dead like dead dead resurrection until the “not yet.” I know that sin has been defeated. But yet, there’s still sin in the world because I live in between those two periods of the “not yet.”
He goes, “So, what it is is the sin that dwells within me that’s the struggle.”
Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” – He’s not talking about your skin. Paul uses what’s called “sarx” in the Greek word. It’s like your sinful nature. It’s not the spiritual side of a human. It’s that sinful part.
He goes, “I know that there’s nothing good because what happens is, in my flesh, I want to do some of these things that are good, but I don’t have the ability to carry it out. Just on my own, I would always do the wrong thing.”
He says, “For I don’t do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
And, some of you are going, “Man, this is so true.” You could ask Paul and he’d tell you it’s true. You could ask Peter and he’d tell you it’s true.” Peter still struggled way after the day of Pentecost. Way after he preached to 3,000 people. He’s eaten with the Gentiles and the bent from James come in in Galatians 2 and he hops up just like Peter, that emotional dude, you know, just sort of doing all those things. And hops up and Paul has to rebuke him to his face. He’s like, Peter is still struggling with stuff.
He says, “But, I sort of keep doing the same thing over and over again.”
You go, “So do I, Chip.”
And I go, “So do I, crowd.”
And so does everybody. We all do this. We’re looking for some remedy.
He says, “If I don’t do what I want, it’s no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me.”
He wants to make sure you understand that. There’s something else going on. There’s some other stuff going on, because he’s living between the now and the not yet.
Romans 7:21, “So if I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
He doesn’t even say I always do evil. He says that it lies close at hand.
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.”
Paul never uses inner being other than Christians. He goes, “I delight in it. I want to do the right thing. I want to live this thing out. I want to please God. There’s so much within me that wants to please God. I delight about this stuff. I know what the law says.”
I ain’t talking about the ceremonial stuff and sacrifices. I’m talking about the loving your wife and not cheating and not stealing. He’s like, “That’s all good stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. I want to do those things and I want to, desperately want to do it on the inside.”
“But, I also got this problem. I got a problem that in my members there’s another law that wages war against me in my mind and it brings me captive and it dwells in my members.”
He goes, “Man, what a wretched man that I am! This stinks. I want to do the right things, but yet I find myself doing the wrong things. What a wretched man that I am.”
And, here’s what he says, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Deliver here in the Greek word is a future verb. He’s not talking about right now. He’s talking about the future. He said, “Who’s going to ultimately deliver me in the not yet from this struggle that I’m having right now?”
And he gives the answer. The answer is: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
He’s going to deliver me one day. One day in the not yet, I’m not going to have these struggles. But, what about now?
“So then, I serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Now, if you’re reading this and you understand there’s no chapter divisions or anything like that in the Bible, Paul has told you there’s a real struggle that goes on in trying to live this thing out. And, everyone of us has it and if anybody thinks they’ve got the answer for it, I can assure you you don’t. Because, we all struggle. I don’t care what book you’ve read or whatever you said. Nothing takes that struggle away. The struggle is there. And Paul says, “Here’s the beauty. There’s going to be a future deliverance from that. But, in the present and in the meantime, this is what’s going on.”
And then he says the greatest get out of jail free card for everybody in this building and everybody watching via the internet.
He says, “But there’s not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
In other words, the struggle which shows that you’re in the process between the now and the not yet, there’s no guilt and no condemnation for you when you struggle. At all. You’re forgiven. It’s done. It doesn’t mean the struggles going to go away. The struggle is the sign that you’re in. The struggle shows that something’s going on inside and that God’s working on the inside.
He says, “There’s no more condemnation for that because, here’s what happened in the now. The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Because, God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh…” – listen, here’s the get out of jail free card – “…in order that righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled…” – present tense – “…in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
What he says is this: “Here’s the deal, you live in the now. You’re forgiven, you’re holy, you’re blameless and you’re all of those things. But, one day those things are going to be fully, fully, fully involved in your life, because one day you’re going to move from the now to the not yet and what’s going to happen in the interim is you know one day you’re going to be delivered from this. But, in the interim, there is no condemnation and no guilt for the struggle.”
Now, here are the take-homes. Write these down. These are huge that you get this.
Number one. The struggle is the proof that we’re always looking for.
People come into my office and say, “Chip, I need to know if I’m a Christian. Chip, I need to know if I’m doing right. The guy on TV told me if I’m struggling with sin and I got things in my life that I keep doing. I mean, dude, I don’t want to do them. I don’t want to do them at all. I just struggle and struggle. I don’t want to do them. Man, am I really in? Do I need to come down to the alter and you put some oil on me? What do you need to do? How do I get this over?”
No. The struggle is the proof that you’re in. You didn’t have that struggle before. I didn’t think about things I was doing before I was a Christian. Man, I become a Christian and, all of a sudden, this little Jiminy Cricket hopped up on my shoulder and started going, “You ain’t supposed to do that.”
I’m like, “Why am I not supposed to be doing that? That’s fun!”
He’s like, “No, you’re not supposed to be doing that.”
I’m like, “Come on, man. You need to shut up, man.”
And, what happens is is you continue to grow and, all of a sudden, you get better along the way and things work out. See, that’s why people can’t understand. You’ve got all these people over here on this side that can’t deal with what the scripture says.
“You need to pray, you need to fast, you need to do all these things.”
“Why does it tell us to do those things?”
Because they’re good. They’re not bad. They’re good things and they help move us a long. And sometimes, we get a little bit better in the struggle. Sometimes, we actually overcome some things in our lives. Sometimes, we say, “Hey, I had some victory in that area.”
But, we never get fully until the not yet. But, the struggle, if you’re struggling, if you delight for the things of God in your heart and life, that’s proof positive that you’re in. And, there is no condemnation for the struggle. I mean, can you imagine if every church in America preached this how much guilt we would unload on people? Can you imagine?
We wouldn’t hold pastors to some unreasonable deal that I’ve got to walk on water and when I sink like a lead balloon we wouldn’t hold elders up and people up like they’ve got to do it. We would understand. We’re all broken. We’re in between the now and the not yet and the fact that they’re even struggling to do the right thing, they’re in. Let’s love them and let’s take care of them.
Secondly, the “no condemnation” is the get out of jail free card to service.
See, people say, “Ah, I can’t do anything for God. I can’t do that for God. I couldn’t do that. Man, I haven’t got it together.”
Man, let me tell you something. If doing the things of God was based on having it together, there wouldn’t be one church open in America. None of us have it together. The fact that we’re not condemned for the struggle is the get out of jail free card to go do something for God. Because, we’re never really free to succeed until we are free to fail. Do you work for somebody that’s constantly telling you everything you do wrong? Guess what you don’t do? You don’t try anything creative. You don’t try anything innovative. You don’t do any of that because you’re scared.
God says, “Listen. Listen, child. One day, that struggle is going to end. But in the meantime, there’s no condemnation for you, because My Son did what you can’t do.”
And, that’s what’s going on now. And one day, it’ll be fully there.
And thirdly, and this is the big one. Guilt is gone because why Jesus did is both decisive and guaranteed.
That’s why Paul says in chapter 8 when he starts talking about this thing. He says, “Hey, listen. The sufferings of this present time, all that struggle and all of that stuff now is not worthy to be compared with the glory not yet which shall be revealed. And you’re not the only one. There’s the whole world that’s groaning. The world knows it’s been redeemed. The world knows that what Christ did is finished and it’s going to happen. It’s groaning to have that day finally fulfilled in the not yet.”
While you’re groaning and the world is groaning, God actually, by His Spirit, comes into the now and groans with you anticipating the not yet. It’s decisive but it’s guaranteed because Paul says, “Hey, in case you’re struggling, because let me tell you how this is going to work.”
What shall we then say to everything I’ve just said from chapter 1 all the way through to chapter 8? What shall I say to all these things?
He says, “Here’s what I’m going to tell you. If God is for you, there ain’t nobody that can be against you. If He didn’t spare His own Son but He gave Him up for us all, how’s He not going to graciously give us all things?”
Who’s going to bring charge against you? God’s the one who justifies.
He says, “So, in case you’re wondering, because you live between the now and the not yet, that’s decisive but it’s also guaranteed.”
He says, listen to this, he says, “I want you to hear me. I’m sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s why you don’t have to walk around carrying a bunch of guilt in your life, because you’ve been set free and you are going to be set free. That money is in your account and it is in your account as in your account it could be. But, one day, you’re going to fully transact that stuff and it’s going to be an awesome day. And that day, John says, when we see Him, we will be like Him. That’s how you live out the Christian life.
That’s how you live out the Gospel. Don’t got all that other junk that gets cluttered in your mind. Understand there’s going to be a struggle, but there’s no condemnation and no guilt for it. And understand one day you’re going to not have that struggle. But, in the interim, God’s got your back. Now, get out of here and go live it. And you know what happens when you get that message? You want to go tell everybody and that’s exactly what happened with the early Christians. They wanted it with me.
“Hey, you got to hear this, man! Man, God is good.”
So, let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come to You right now and we thank You for Your goodness and Your mercy. Lord, we pray for our revved up pastor because he is revved up right now, God, about to have a heart attack. I probably ran some people off getting too excited. Anyway. Lord, we just come to You, because I know there’s people in here that have a lifetime of guilt. Lord, I pray right now they would hear the words of their Savior. “You, My child are forgiven and it is gone. East is to the West. And one day, you’ll be with Me and I’ll be your God and you’ll be My child.”
In the interim, it’s decisive. In the future, it’s guaranteed. Lord, I pray for those today who go, “Man, I’ve been trying to do it my way for so long. I need to do it with Jesus. Lord, I pray right now, in Jesus’ name, that if there’s anybody in here that that’s sort of on their heart, I pray God that they would say, “Lord, I want this. I want some of this Gospel in my life.”
And Lord, if they prayed that prayer today, I pray that they would share that with somebody before they leave that they prayed that prayer. For those of us, Lord, that are in the faith and struggle, I pray God, today, that we’d take that big ‘ol bag of guilt and leave it right here in the sanctuary with You. To understand we can high step it out of here knowing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is no guilt anymore for those who are in Christ Jesus. And, the struggle doesn’t put us away. The struggle doesn’t take us out of the family of God.
The struggle, in fact, proves that we’re walking between the now and the not yet. And Lord, I pray there would be some freedom in people’s lives today. So Lord, as we walk out of here, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray that You would lead and guide us. And I pray, God, that You would continue to help this church be a light that shines brightly in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton, for Your glory. We thank You for everything. Bring us back safely when we meet again. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said “amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap for His freedom and His grace.