Romans #15 – Good Gifts New Desires (Romans 7:14-25)

Romans #15 – Good Gifts New Desires (Romans 7:14-25)

– If you are new, we’ve been going through the Book of Romans this year, it’s been a supernatural, incredible, extraordinary year, the church has doubled, Real Faith Live online has doubled, God has done some incredible things, and this will the last sermon in Romans 4 this year and we’ll pick it up again after Valentine’s Day. So we’re in Romans chapter 7 and the really great news that I have for you today is during this Christmas season when we are buying gifts and giving gifts and receiving gifts, God has good gifts to give to his children, and today he’s gonna talk to us about one of the greatest gifts, that is the gift of new desires that comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this is one of the great secrets of the Christian life that non-Christians, quite frankly, don’t understand, and that is that Christianity is not a bunch of things that we have to do, it’s a bunch of things that we get to do because God changes our desires and ultimately, the things of God are the things that we want to do, that makes the Christian life the most joyful life, the most exciting life, the most satisfying life, but if we’re honest, there are also moments, times, seasons of struggle. Let me explain it this way, when we were kids, we played tug of war, any of you ever played that game? Now that I’m an adult and I’m bigger, I’d be much better at it, but when I was a little kid, I played tug of war, tug, tug, tug, when you’re an adult, it’s a different kind of tug of war, it’s literally a tug of war between heaven and hell, and every day it feels like you’re sort of the rope, you’re getting pulled, and some days it feels like the Spirit of God is pulling you up and you’re getting closer to who you’re gonna be when you’re in God’s presence with Jesus forever, some days it feels like hell is winning and the flesh is really pulling you down and your character and your conduct, they’re getting a little darker and a little more dreary, and we’ve all had this, we all experience this, we all struggle with this. How many of you right now, it literally feels every day like your life is a tug of war and some days it’s better, some days are worse, some days you’re winning, some days you’re losing, sometimes it feels like you’re getting closer to God and sometimes it feels like the temperature’s been heating up and you’re getting pulled toward hell? That’s exactly what he expresses in Romans 7, so we’re gonna walk through it together, we’ll jump right in, and he’s gonna talk about we either go down in the flesh or up in the Spirit. We either go closer to the Lord or closer to separation from the Lord. He talks about it this way, “For we know that the law is spiritual.” Law here, he’s talking about God’s laws, God’s intentions for our conduct. He says, “It is spiritual, “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. “For I do not understand my own actions.” How many of you this makes sense? Anybody ever walked up to you and say, “Why’d you do that?” And you’re like, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” “Why’d you say that?” “I don’t know.” “What’s wrong with you?” “I don’t know.” I know there’s something wrong, I don’t know what it is, okay? And if you’ve never experienced this, if you’re married, you’ve seen it up close and personal in your spouse, we’ve all had this struggle, how many of you this week you said or did something stupid and you don’t know why you did it? I’m about to tell you why, you’re welcome, thanks for coming. Okay here we go, “For I do not do what I want, “but I do the very thing I hate.” How many of you, this explains some of your behavior? You’re like, “I hate that, but I did it again.” “Now if I do not do what I want, “I agree with the law that it is good. “So now it’s no longer I who do it, “but sin that dwells within me.” This is the tug of war, this is the struggle, and he’s gonna talk about law over us, and when he’s talking about law, law sometimes refers to the Ten Commandments that is in God’s Word, sometimes it refers to all of God’s laws, the first five books of the Old Testament are called the books of the law, there’s more than 600 laws in there, here, I believe he’s using this concept of law in its greatest and grandest dimension, meaning it’s God’s perfect, unchanging moral standard for everyone, okay? God got it right the first time so he doesn’t change his expectations from one generation or one culture to the next, and ultimately, what he’s talking about is a universal standard of right and wrong, things that you’re supposed to do and things that you’re not supposed to do, and what he says about the law is number one, in 7:12, “It is holy, righteous, and good.” What that means is God’s laws, they’re good, they reflect God the law-giver, they reflect God the law-giver, and today we live in this belief where there is no universal law, but every time someone does something to us, we appeal to it. “You can’t do that, that’s wrong.” You didn’t believe there was wrong until you were wronged and then you appeal to it because we all acknowledge it whether we like it or not, okay? And so it is ultimately good, he says it is a good thing to have these laws and standards that oversee human behavior. In addition, it is spiritual, he says in 7:14, “The law is spiritual.” And what he’s saying in particular is God’s laws, they are spiritual in that they come from the Holy Spirit, that ultimately, this is the only perfect thing on planet Earth, this is the Word of God, and if you want a word from God, you’ve gotta open the Word of God, and what he says is that the laws of God, the commands, the decrees, the expectations, they’re not only good, they’re spiritual, meaning they come from God the Holy Spirit, they are supernaturally delivered, that God’s laws in the Bible are not things that people came up with. Most of us, right? Let’s just be honest, how many of you, you know at least something in the Bible, and there’s parts you don’t like? There’s parts that if you could be on the editing committee, you would change them? This is how we know that people, they didn’t write the Bible by themselves. We wouldn’t read it and write it that God is good, we are bad, it’s all our fault, there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves and we’re all going to hell and we’re supposed to keep our pants on. None of us would have voted for all of that, amen?

– [Congregation] Amen.

– You would’ve been like, “No, no, no, “you get saved by eating tacos with your pants off.” That’d be my religion, if I was gonna pick a religion, just sit around in your pajamas and eat tacos and then you get to go to heaven, and if I was gonna devise a religion, it would be a lot funner than what the Word of God says, just to let you know, that ultimately, and I say things I shouldn’t, and so I’ll come back and I’ll do it again next week, but if you’re new, what he’s talking about here is that ultimately, what God says is good, but the problem is that we are bad, and the fact that it is spiritual means that people didn’t come up with all of these ideas because people will never come up with an idea where they are the problem, not the solution, where they need help and they can’t help themselves, that ultimately, we’re totally and utterly dependent on God because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard and God’s law, so what he’s saying is this, here we are, we all live our life, over us is God’s standard called the law, it doesn’t change, so we’re left with two choices, number one, are we going to try and change it, or number two, are we going to allow it to change us? That’s it, those are really the only options, you can say, “Okay, well, God wrote some things down, “either I’m going to want to change, “edit what he said because I think he got it wrong, “or I’m going to allow the law to judge me, “to show me my sins, my faults, my failures, my flaws, “and I’m gonna change.” So the law is over us and the question is, does the law change or do we change? And you and I friend, we make this decision every moment of every day, we either make this decision in the flesh, which pulls us down, or in the Spirit, which pulls us up, again, this is the tug of war. So he’s gonna talk about the flesh, when we hear the word flesh, we tend to think of the physical body, it includes that, but it’s far more than that. When the Apostle Paul here uses the concept of flesh, he’s not just talking about your physical body, but he’s talking about your deepest nature, your strongest desires, your inner person, who you are in the guts and the core. We use the language like seeing somebody’s heart, or getting to the soul of the matter, that’s akin to what he is describing, it’s the inner you, it’s the true you, it’s the deepest you, and that part of your being, it affects all of the decisions you make, it affects all the desires you have, it affects all the thoughts that you conceive, it totally impacts who you are and how you live, and what it is, until we meet Jesus, all we have is something called the old nature, or the old man, and what he’s talking about here is the flesh, that is the name for the old nature or the old man, and it is a seed of rebellion given us from our first father, Adam, if you were here, we looked at that in Romans chapter 5, and what’s curious is that even in the realm of secular psychology, there is an understanding of the flesh, so counselors, psychologists, and therapists who don’t even know the Lord or believe the Bible, they will talk about our shadow side, have you heard that? Your shadow side. And what they will say is that this is a dark part of you, this is a deadly part of you, this is a destructive part of you, it’s your shadow side, it’s the part of you that you’re a bit scared of, it’s a part of you that you try to control, it’s a part of you that you’re fearful that other people will see and they’ll see who you really are, and what happens then is in the shadow side, those who are psychologists and therapists, they will say that it is an unconscious part of our being, meaning we didn’t choose it, it chose us. The difference between the Bible and other social sciences is that the social sciences can diagnose our problem but they can’t provide our solution, so they can tell you what’s wrong but they can’t make it right because we have needs that only God can meet, we have changes that only God can make, and so ultimately, psychology, and I’m not against it, I believe in the social sciences, it tells us what the problem is, but rather than telling us, then, how to get a new nature and to overcome the flesh, it tells us that the only hopes are medication and management, that the flesh can’t be removed and a new nature cannot be given, so we need to have medication and management to try and keep the flesh, the shadow side of you, from utterly destroying you. Now, I’m not saying that management through good habits is a bad thing, and I’m not even saying that on certain occasions, that the problem could be, at least in part, medical, could be hormonal, could be physical, could be chemical, and that when we love somebody, we want to see them whole in their mind with their thoughts, in their heart with their emotions, in their deeds with their actions, in their body with their health, but the difference is Christians and non-Christians can diagnose the problem, but only God can provide the solution. We don’t want people just to be better, we want them to be new, we don’t want them just to avoid pain in this life, we want them to avoid the pain of eternal life, and so what we need is not just to manage or medicate the old nature, the flesh, we need the Spirit of God to remove that old nature and to replace it with a new nature, and this is the great gift that God gives the Christian. During the Christmas season, this is why the greatest gift we can give is to tell people about Jesus and that God would give them the Holy Spirit and that he would give them a new nature and he would give them new desires, and he would give them new powers so that they didn’t live in the shadow side but they lived in the Spirit side of who God intends for them to be, and so here, then, he’s comparing and contrasting living in the flesh, which pulls you down, versus living the Spirit of God, and he pulls you up, and he’s going to say this in multiple ways in Romans 7. Some of you were poorly taught, you were taught that God forgives you but He doesn’t really change you, so all you are is just the same old sinner that you were, once you meet Jesus and get a new nature, he told us in Romans chapter 1 that God sees you as a saint, that he’s done something in Jesus Christ to change your status in the sight of God and to change your condition in relationship to God, this doesn’t mean that you’re perfect, but it does mean that you’re new, and that God has begun a change process in your life to make you more and more like Jesus, and ultimately, he is, in Romans 7, gonna speak of life in the Spirit where the Spirit of God pulls us up toward heaven, toward Jesus, toward the kingdom of God, in obedience to God’s commands and decrees, and he explains it in three ways. In 7:22, he speaks of our inner being, this is a new nature, I need you to know that if you belong to Jesus or you give yourself and your sin to Jesus today, he gives you a new nature, literally, the hard wiring in you is reset by God at the deepest level of your being, the Bible talks about that, “He would take out our heart of stone “and he would give us a heart of flesh, “that you would be a new creation in Christ “that old things would pass away, “that old things would be made new, “that you would be born again, “that you were originally born “with a nature of sin in the flesh, “you’re born again of a new nature “in the Spirit for obedience to God.” So he talks about a new nature in chapter 7, he also talks about new desires, he said in 7:15, “I do not do what I wanna do.” Have we ever felt that? Have you ever felt that? You’re like, “I wanted to do the right thing and I didn’t.” I’ll give you an example, it’s a minor example, but I was walking in and I’m eating healthy this week because it’s Christmas and I don’t wanna blow up like a puffer fish, and I’m 50, if you’re in your 20s, enjoy carbs and eyesight, all of that’s about to change, okay? You can’t eat anything and you can’t see anything, you’re just gonna be big and blind, that’s where you’re headed, okay? I’m walking in and there’s a table filled with cookies. In Genesis 3, there was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and they were told to walk by it, I thought about that right after I ate the cookie, okay? So I’m full of chocolate chip cookies, I ate the whole thing in one bite, Grace asks, she’s like, “What’d you do with the cookie?” I was like, “I ate it.” She was like, “Between there and there?” “Yes, I, one breath. “I ate the whole cookie in one breath.” And you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to eat broccoli, but I didn’t because the inner man put up a real right, and flesh is the Greek word for baked goods, so it all corresponds right here. But he talks about new desires, 7:15, “I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.” How many of you, you intended to do the right thing, you did the totally wrong thing, and afterwards, you’re like, “What was I thinking?” And for some of you, it’s the weekend, this was Friday night, welcome, you know? This is the struggle, we’re not perfect but we’re new, and the new part of us hates our old habits, the new part of us hates our old behaviors, the new part of us hates our old decisions, and when we make them, we hate them, so he’s talking about life in the Spirit that pulls us up, he talks about the new nature, the new desires, and a new power. He said in Romans 7:6, all in context of Romans 7, “We serve in the new way of the Spirit.” The new way of the Spirit, not the flesh, and where he’s driving, Romans 8 if you wanna read ahead this week, we won’t be there for a few months, but Romans 8 talks about life in the Spirit. All of chapter 8 is how to live by the person, the presence, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian and the non-Christian can both look at the life of Jesus and admire it, but only the Christian can experience it. There are many people who don’t know Jesus who admire Jesus, only those who have the Holy Spirit not only can admire him but can experience the life that he lived by the power that he had, and so ultimately the new nature has new desires and the Holy Spirit does all of this and he brings a new power so that you can live a new life in relationship to Jesus Christ that is increasingly more like Jesus Christ, and again, this is the primary difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is at the level of desire, what do you want? What do you want? The Christian, at their deepest level, wants to do what God says, and they struggle with it because they’re still fighting the flesh. For the non-Christian, the deepest desire is not obedience, it’s disobedience, it’s not holiness, it’s unholiness, it’s not following Jesus, it’s sinning against Jesus. So let me ask you this, what changes, if you are a Christian, what changes have happened in your nature, your desire, and your power? Some of you, the power that’s been unlocked and unleashed in your life, it’s supernatural, some of you were addicted and then you were set free. You say, “What happened?” You’re like, “I don’t know, “God took out the old nature, “put in the new nature, put in new desires, new power. “I don’t know, I just literally changed.” That’s some of your testimony, that God literally just re-hardwired you in an instant, we even got a testimony from somebody recently, I won’t share any of the details, but they were struggling mightily with suicide, they met Jesus 100 days ago and have not had any thought of self-harm in 100 days, you know why? New nature, new desires, new power. Because the flesh pulls us down to death and the Spirit pulls us up to life, it’s very practical. I want you to look at your life and ask, “Okay, where have I experienced the new nature, “the new desires, and the new power?” For me, I grew up in a Catholic home, religious home, love my parents, wasn’t their fault, my mom loved the Lord, I didn’t, I didn’t care, I was totally indifferent, I had nobody to blame but myself. The age of 19 in college, God saved me reading the Book of Romans in my dorm at a state university, and then I went on a men’s retreat and God spoke to me audibly, told me to do four things, marry Grace, who was my high school sweetheart and now the mother of our five kids and the Flourish women’s director and my best friend, okay? So he said marry Grace, preach the Bible, he said to me then, train men and plant churches. Up until that point, the only thing I had thought about was marrying Grace, that was it. He was like, “Marry Grace.” I was like, “All right, “I mean, if she’ll put up with me, I’m in.” Preach the Bible, I had had zero thoughts in my whole life of doing that, zero. Train men, I’m 19, I’m not even a man. How do I train men? I’m 19. And then plant churches? I had never even heard of church planting. What is that? Oh, start a church from nothing. Zero times in my whole life had I thought about that, but that was God’s will for my life. When I became a Christian, God gave me a new nature, and then he gave me new desires, and then he gave me the Holy Spirit to chase those desires. So since age 19, I’m with Grace. I adore her, I love her, I’m blessed to be with her, we went for a walk yesterday, it was sunny and warm out and we’re holding hands, and I literally just can’t believe how blessed I am. I’m like, I’ve got grace from God over me, I’ve got Grace alongside of me, I’m just walking in grace upon grace, and I get to preach the Bible, I’ll let you guys in on a secret, I really like doing this. That’s why I do it every week, I’ve taken one week off in the last 55 weeks. I really like teaching the Bible, I get excited every time, I really enjoy it, it’s super fun for me. In addition, I have a tremendous heart for men, our largest ministry is men’s ministry, I want the men to get set free, I want them to be encouraged, I want them to break generational legacies that are negative, and curses, and I want them to set new lives and legacies, I want them to lead themselves and love their wives and lead and love their kids and win at work and make a difference in the world, and I love seeing the men, I love seeing the men grow, and, in addition, planting churches. We planted one before, we helped plant a number, we took everything we’ve learned in basically 20-something years of ministry and we poured it into this great experiment at the Trinity Church, and God’s been exceedingly gracious. Just since we started Romans, we’ve added 630 kids to the kid’s roster, we’ve doubled the church, we’ve doubled the Real Faith Live show, we’ve baptized 117 new Christians just since we started Romans. So what is God doing? He’s giving people a new nature and he’s giving them new desires and then he’s giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to live a new life, and I’ll just tell you, it’s exciting, it’s wonderful, it’s the best thing to be in God’s will, and when you know God’s will and you’re not in it, you’re miserable. Like, if I wasn’t with Grace, I’d be miserable, if I wasn’t teaching the Bible, I would be miserable, if I didn’t have my kids, I would be miserable, if I didn’t get to invest in men, I would be miserable, if I didn’t get to lead this church, I’d be miserable, I’d still love the Lord, but those desires in me are so strong that I want to pursue them with full vigor and passion, and anytime anything gets in the way or anytime I trip over my own feet, I’m super frustrated because that’s not what I really want, that’s not who I really am, that’s not why I was really saved, and if you’re a Christian, you just gotta ask, what desires has God given you? Some of you, you’re like, “I wanna change my life, “I wanna learn the Bible, I wanna pray, “I wanna say I’m sorry for the first time in my life.” Okay, these are deep, profound changes that God gives you with a new nature, new desires, and new power so you can live by the Spirit and rise above the life that you had and it is this constant battle with this lingering remnant of the flesh that is always trying to pull you back and pull you down, and again, your life feels like that tug of war, amen? We all feel it. So then he’s going to continue, he has diagnosed the problem, he’s gonna move into the solution, and he’s gonna talk to us as an honest Christian, and if you’re new, there are some dishonest Christians, but Paul here in Romans 7:18-20 is an honest Christian, he says, “For I know,” He’s confident of this. “that nothing good dwells in me that is my flesh.” The old you is all bad, there’s nothing good. And some of you are like, “I wanna take a little bit of my past “and a little bit of Jesus “and put them together.” The answer is no. Who you were before Jesus, there’s nothing salvageable there, there’s nothing redeemable there, there’s nothing good there, Jesus died for it so it needs to die, and Jesus came forward in newness of life, and so the old you needs to die and the new you needs to walk away, just like Jesus did from the grave, from who you were. He continues, “That is, in my flesh. “For I have the desire to do what is right.” If you are a Christian, the deepest desires you have are to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. This is the honest Christian’s struggle. “For I do not do the good I want, “but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Bad habits, bad choices. “Now if I do what I do not want, “it is no longer I who do it “but sin that dwells within me.” This is one the most debated texts in the entire New Testament, if you’re new, the Bible is 66 books written, 2/3 in the Old Testament, 39 books, 1/3 is in the New Testament, 27 books, and that ultimately, all together, it is the perfect Word of God, and the Apostle Paul here, he is giving us a section of the Bible that is one of the most debated, controversial sections in the entire Bible, and all these teams come out and these conferences are held and books are written and shots are fired over who is talking and what he’s saying, I’ll give you the summation of the three primary perspectives, some would say he’s referring to quote, unquote, the carnal Christian, the carnal Christian. The carnal Christian is the one who Jesus is their Savior but not their Lord, that he forgives their sin but he doesn’t rule their life, that ultimately, he has forgiven them, but he’s not really changed them, okay? This is inappropriate so I shouldn’t say it, but I will. The image that comes to mind, have you ever been to a circus? There’s the elephants, and then there’s the guy following the elephants with the shovel? This would be this view of Jesus, your life is a circus, you just walk around and he just cleans up after you, that you’re the Lord and he’s the Savior, you do what you want and his job is to follow you and clean up the mess you’ve made, that’s that view. There was an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ, they changed their name to Cru because crusades aren’t real popular these days. “Is this a jihad for Jesus?” “No, we’re changing the name to Cru.” Okay good, thank you. And so they changed their name, and they would show three kinds of people, there was a circle where outside of the circle is Jesus and you’re in the circle, you’re the non-Christian, you’re on the throne of your life, so they’d show you on the throne and Jesus outside. The next one was a circle where you and Jesus are in the same circle, you’re sitting on a throne, you’re the lord of your life and he’s in the circle with you, but he’s not on the throne, you are. That’s the carnal Christian. And then the third one was the spiritual Christian, you and Jesus are both in the circle together and he’s seated on the throne, he’s the Lord, and then they would ask people, “Which one do you wanna be?” I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like the choices, because let me tell you this, Jesus is Lord whether you accept or acknowledge that or not. We would say, “I made Jesus Lord.” No you didn’t, you also didn’t make gravity or water wet, those things are true whether you believe in them or not. It’s not like right now, as we like, “Um, right now, “I’m gonna make water wet, I did it.” You know what? It was wet before you voted. Jesus was Lord no matter what you vote, so the Bible doesn’t say that Jesus could be Lord if we all vote for him, the Bible says that Jesus is Lord whether or not any of us vote for him. When Jesus comes back and we’ll be like, “I didn’t vote for you.” And he’s like, “I don’t really care. “We’re not doing a recount, “I don’t care what happened in Georgia, I’m in charge.” The problem with this view is it leads to a hyphenated Christianity, right? You’re a liberal Christian, you’re a progressive Christian, you’re a gay Christian, you’re a red-letter Christian who only believes the parts of the Bible that are in red, you don’t even believe all of those, but ultimately, you want Jesus to forgive you, love you, serve you, save you, reserve a seat in heaven for you, but not tell you what to do, and what you’re basically saying is, “I don’t want a relationship with you. “I like the gifts but not the giver, “I want you to give me all the blessings “but I don’t want a relationship “where I need to listen to you and you get to lead me.” And I would say that’s not loving Jesus, that’s using Jesus, that’s an abusive relationship, that ultimately Jesus is very generous and Jesus loves us so much that he’ll take us as we are, but Jesus loves us too much to keep us as we are. He told us in Romans 2, “It’s the kindness of God that leads to our repentance.” What that means is Jesus loves us and his love changes us. What I’m saying is this, you can’t meet Jesus and receive his love without starting to experience some change in your life, that’s what I’m telling you. When I met Jesus, some things changed and they’re still changing. The closer I get to Jesus, the more change happens. Anyone you’re in a loving relationship with, that relationship should change you. My relationship with Grace has changed my life, my relationship with each of my kids has changed my life, my relationship with Jesus has changed my life. What Jesus doesn’t wanna do is just forgive you, he wants to love you, he wants a relationship with you, and he wants that loving relationship with him to change you, and part of the truth is this, that the Christian faith is a fight, it’s a war. He used this word in Romans 7:23, war. It’s what he’s using in context, and what that means is this, we are new, but we’re not in heaven yet, we’re still on Earth. We’re new, but we’re not perfect yet, we’re in the fight, and so what it is, it’s a war, it’s a fight. The problem that I see with the carnal Christianity is saying you don’t need to fight, there is no war. You can have all your sin and Jesus and you don’t need to fight against your sin for Jesus. And I’m telling you, the Christian life, it’s a fight, it’s a war, it’s a war between hell and heaven, between ultimately death and life, between slavery and freedom, and when you receive the Spirit of God and you join team Jesus, you are in the fight, and it is a war, and it’s not enough to say, “Jesus, I’m not gonna change, obey you, or follow you, “I don’t wanna be like you, “but I want you to just forgive me.” The other erroneous view is something called the perfect Christian. And if you’ve ever met this person, tell them they’re not, that’s the perfect Christian. And some would say, “No, he’s not talking about the carnal Christian “who’s living like a non-Christian “but really is a Christian, “there’s no change in their behavior, “there’s no change in nature, desire, or power.” Others would say, “No, no, no, “he’s talking about how he used to struggle with his sin “until he reached that higher life, victorious, “champion, first-round draft pick, super-Christian.” And what he’s talking about is, “I used to struggle with sin, “not anymore, I’m above that.” And this is called higher life Christianity, “I’m above sin and temptation.” It’s called the victorious Christian life, “You know what? “I’m ready for heaven. “In heaven, I’m gonna be perfect “and I’ve made so much progress “I’m pretty much already ready.” If you grew up in a holiness tradition, a Wesleyan church, a Methodist church, a Pentecostal church, some Charismatic churches, this is where they go, that you can reach a state where you basically are sinless and perfect, the Holy Spirit has done so much work in you that you’re so close to heaven that you’re just one step away. How many of you have met someone who thinks that they are pretty much perfect? Any of you met these Christians? First of all, they’re not fun. They are not fun. They’re a little judgy, these ones. So the first time I saw one, I was in college at a state university, and I was walking by this street preacher who was out in open air yelling at people, I don’t believe in that, I believe in yelling at people indoors, okay? I’m different. So he’s yelling at all these college students and he’s got all these turn or burn, flip or fry signs all in the King James, all scribbled out in hand, typos, I mean, that guy, right? And so he shows up and he’s got a megaphone and he’s yelling at everyone, and he’s literally following students. “Ma’am, did you pick that shirt? “That’s not enough, you’re not dressed modestly, “the Bible says to.” He’s just literally yelling at everyone about their sin. “You look hungover, son. “Were you drinking last night?” He’s yelling at everyone. So I stop and watch, I’m a brand-new Christian, I’m like, “I don’t know what we’re doing, “let’s see what this is.” He is literally the picture of what Paul here calls the law. He’s gonna judge everyone, he’s gonna condemn everyone, he’s going to publicly shame everyone, and he did this for hours. Hungover frat guys tried to argue with him, it was amazing. It was before YouTube, which to me, is heartbreaking, it was missed gold, that’s what that was. So finally, one of the hungover frat guys comes up and he’s like, “So you think you’re better than me?” The guy with the megaphone was like, “Yes I do.” I was like, “This is interesting.” So what the hungover frat guy tried to do, he tried to turn the law on the guy, ’cause law-based people, they just wanna talk about your sin, not their sin, they wield it as a weapon, they weaponize the Word of God, that’s what they do, they use it to shoot you. So what the hungover frat guy’s trying to do, he’s trying to turn the weapon around, “Well, let’s turn the law on you, “let’s talk about your sins.” So the hungover frat guy basically asks him, “Well, you think you’re perfect?” Now, what do you think the answer would be? “No.” Here’s what he said, “Yes.” I was like, “Maybe they’re both hungover, “I don’t know, this is crazy.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “Yes, I am perfect.” I was like, “What the heck?” So he’s yelling at everybody, and he said, “I haven’t sinned,” I think he said, “since 1972.” I would have been 2 years old, I was doing the math, I’m 19 at the time, and he says, “It was 1972, “I saw Susie in hot pants and I had a lustful thought, “and then I repented and I gave myself to the Lord, “and ever since then, I’ve never sinned again.” My first thought was, “What are hot pants? “Are those the pants that the girls “who are going to hell are wearing? “I don’t wanna wear those pants.” But he literally said, “I have not sinned in thought, word, or deed, “everything I’ve said or done since 1972 has been perfect.” What do you think about that? I’ll let you in on a little secret, I doubt he was married, I’ll just let you in on that. That’s a little hard to live with, you’re having a fight and you’re like, “I know it’s not my problem, “not my fault, I’m perfect, “you married Jesus so talk to him “about how you need to change.” Okay, so that’d be a little rough. And immediately, I thought, number one, he seems really proud, true? Like, really proud because he’s telling us publicly how perfect he is, that’s not very humble. Secondly, he’s very judgemental, he’s not loving of people at all, he’s very unloving, and what he’s doing, he’s making it between himself and the people, not between the people and Jesus, and so it’s not about you and them, it’s about us and him, and pride is the worst sin of all, it’s pride that got Satan kicked out of heaven, and that sometimes religious pride is the worst sin of all, and sometimes the most wicked people tell you how holy they are and how unholy you are, so I don’t believe Paul here in Romans 7 is talking about the carnal Christian who belongs to Jesus but Jesus has affected no change in their life, I don’t think he’s talking about the perfect Christian who’s got the victorious higher life, I think he’s speaking as an honest Christian, and the honest Christian knows this, “I’m not who I was, “but I’m not who I’m going to be when God is done with me. “I am new, but I’m not perfect. “I made some progress, but I’m not there yet.” If I look at how far I’ve come, I feel pretty encouraged, if I look at how far I have to go, oh boy, I see reality. How many of you this explains your life? This is the honest Christian life, and the good news is this, ultimately, God is not done with you. He’s not done with you, you’re in the process, you’re in the fight, you’re in the struggle, you’re in the journey, but when he says, “I don’t do the things I wanna do “and I do do the things I don’t wanna do “and I’m so frustrated.” What he’s saying is that for the Christian, God changes the nature, the desires, and the power to such a degree that when we go down instead of up, we hate it because our desires have changed. How many of you, there’s things you used to love and you met Jesus, now you hate them? There’s things you used to live for and now you wanna kill them? It changes desire. There is where, if you’re new, I love to say Christianity is not what we have to do, it’s what we get to do. I don’t have to read the Bible, I get to. I don’t have to pray, I get to. I don’t have to sing, I get to. I don’t have to tithe, I get to. I don’t have to serve, I get to. My new nature with the new desires, that’s what I wanna do, and when I don’t, I’m really miserable. What this means is that the Christian who’s in the struggle or the fight is not the hypocrite, the hypocrite is the Christian who quits the struggle and gives up on the fight, and I’ll give you a story on the change of desires because I wanna use a physical truth to illustrate a spiritual truth, so growing up, how many of you, like me, I ate garbage, I was the human equivalent of a goat, I would eat anything, that was me. To quote Jimmy Gaffigan, ♪ Hot Pockets ♪ I mean, that was like, I ate microwaved burritos, I ate frozen pizzas, I ate Pop-Tarts, the closest thing I came to fruit was orange soda, I just ate garbage, I ate Taco Bell, I ate McDonald’s, which is the Greek word for cancer. I just ate garbage, but I was a very active athlete, okay? And so when you’re young and you’re active, you can burn some off. Well, then I hit college, not so active, then hit my 20s, not so young, hit your 30s, add not so active, not so young, I’m in bad shape, I feel sick all the time, I have got heartburn and intestinal ulcers, I’ve got brain fog and low energy, and I’ve got heartburn and allergies and I’m a disaster. I go to my doctor, I say, “What’s wrong?” He’s like, “You’re killing yourself.” He’s like, “Do you know when you put food in the microwave “you kill all the nutrients?” I was like, “No, I’ve not had any nutrients since the ’70s.” So I didn’t know. He’s like, “You’ve gotta change your diet.” I said, “Well, I don’t like those foods.” ‘Cause he’s like, “Eat vegetables.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know. “Can we fry ’em?” And he’s like, “No, you’ve gotta drink more water, “you can’t drink soda, “you’ve gotta stop eating fast food.” He’s like, “You’ve gotta have a salad.” Salad? What am I, a bunny? I don’t need a salad. So I go to my wife Grace who’s discipled her body, her palate, she’s got a healthy, nutritious lifestyle, and she’s like, “Do you wanna eat what I eat?” “I guess I need to.” So I start eating it, and at first, it tasted weird. So she’d cook something, I’d be like, “This tastes like the yard.” That’s what I told her, “This tastes like the yard, “what if I went out “and just like, started eating the yard? “It tastes like that.” She’s like, “That’s what food tastes like.” I was like, “Ah, okay.” I go to clean proteins, I go to vegetables, I go to fruit, I changed my whole diet, I got rid of soda, I stopped eating junk food, I change my whole diet, and bit by bit, I started getting healthier, I started feeling better, I was like, “Oh, I can sleep. “I don’t have allergies, “I don’t have a bloody nose, “I don’t have heartburn, this is awesome.” And then I did this for years. Next thing I know, as I kept feeding the new palate, the new taste buds, the new disciplines, I started enjoying it more and more, and I started finding that I was getting healthier and I was feeling better and better, and then one day, I was driving home, I was driving by McDonald’s, and the flesh rose up, and there was a war with the Spirit, and I thought to myself, “I have not had McDonald’s now in years.” Previously, I would go hours. I’ve extended years, I’m driving by, and I’d be like, “Okay, well, I remember I used to love a Big Mac “and a shake and the fries.” And the fries, they’re good for 30 seconds, they’re amazing for 30 seconds, but at 40 seconds, they turn into shoelaces, you gotta eat them really fast in the car, and the milkshake isn’t even on the periodic chart, you could put the milkshake out, come back 10 years later, it hasn’t melted, that’s a sign, right? This is the caulking you put in your tub, you should not put this in your body, this is not good for you, you’re gonna plug everything up. So I pulled over and I got a Big Mac, fries, and a shake and I’m eating it in the car before I get home because I know that Grace will give me law, that I know. So I eat it quick, now my whole car smells like the fries, it’s like, “Oh Lord, I remember.” Then I get home and I walk in, and Grace is like, “How are you doing?” I was like, “I don’t feel good.” She’s like, “Why?” I was like, “I don’t know, I don’t know, “I just maybe got a touch of COVID or something, “I don’t know, I got something, “so I don’t feel so good.” And a few minutes later, she’s like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “No, I’m not good.” I went in, I threw it all up. A grown man, and that’s the last thing any grown man wants to do. My body literally said, “No, “no, we’re not doing this anymore.” Literally, my appetite changed. The last time I had a Big Mac, how long ago was it? A decade? More than a decade. I don’t have a desire for it, my appetite is changed, and sometimes when I go back, or I did once, I realize that’s not who I am now, that’s not what I’m doing now, and what I used to like, I don’t like anymore. Here’s what I’m telling you, who you were before Jesus is a Big Mac. With fries and a shake, brother! So where he’s comparing and he’s contrasting, let me show you what he’s done to Romans up to this point, he says, “We were unrighteous, “but now in Jesus we’re righteous,” Romans 1-4. “We were enemies of God, “now we’re friends of God,” Romans 5:1-11. “We were fallen in Adam, “now we are raised in Christ,” Romans 5:12-21. “We were spiritually dead, “now we are spiritually alive,” Romans 6:1-14. “We were slaves to sin, “now we are free from sin,” Romans 6:15-23, all this is at realfaith.com in the notes, “We were under law, now we’re under grace,” Romans 7:1-13. Romans 7:14-25, we just looked at, “We were in the flesh, now we are in the Spirit.” So here’s what he’s saying is, “Here’s who you were, you met Jesus, here’s who you are.” And it’s this tension that theologians, theos is God, logos is study, theology is the study of God, they will tell you it’s the tension of the already, but not yet. The Bible says we are seated with Christ and the heavenlies and you’re like, “It feels like Scottsdale.” I know, all right, because it’s the tension of the already, not yet. God sees things as completed but we’re still in the middle of the process, and so it’s certain but it’s not yet completed, and so all of life he is showing us is lived literally in this tension, this is who we’re gonna be, this is who we used to be, this is the struggle that we’re in the middle of, this is the tug of war that we find ourselves in, but here’s what I want you to know, the end is certain, if you believe in Jesus, if you belong to Jesus, if you’ve received the Spirit of God, the end is absolutely certain, guaranteed, and assured. There’s going to be a perfect you, a healed you, an unburdened you with Jesus, like Jesus, filled with the Spirit, no longer fighting against the flesh in the kingdom of God, the best version of you, not the shadow side of you, but the Spirit side of you, that’s all certain, and so, you and I, we wanna move up, we don’t wanna move down, we wanna go in the grace of God, we don’t wanna sin against the law of God, and that’s the struggle that he articulates. So my question to you would be, insofar as going forward, what’s the next step? What’s this walk home look like for you? Is it Bible reading? Is it prayer, is it church attendance, is it baptism? Is it wise counsel, is it a Christian friend? Is it right now, giving yourself to Jesus Christ? Because here’s what I know, some of you, you’re feeling the effects of life and you’re trying to figure out how to pull yourself up and out. Let me tell you this, you can’t. It’s not that you come up, it’s that he comes down. This is the whole miracle of Christmas, we don’t go up to God, God came down to us and his name is, his name is Jesus. We weren’t going to go up to God, we were going down to hell so God literally left heaven, came down to the Earth, and grabs us from hell, and he says, “I’ll obey the law, you’ve not, “I’ll give you my righteousness, you can’t earn it, “I’ll take out the old nature, “I’ll give you a new nature, “I’ll give you new desires, “I’ll give you the Holy Spirit, “the same Holy Spirit that empowered my life “will now empower your life, “and I’m gonna start a change process with you “because I love you, “and it’s not gonna end until I’m finished with you.” Yay! Okay, yeah, wait, yeah. So if you’re someone who’s never given yourself to Jesus, that’s why you’re here. You’re here to say, “Okay, now I know what the problem is. “I don’t need self-help, I need God help. “I don’t need to pull myself up, “I need God to pull me up, that’s what I need.” And if you’ll make that decision right now to give Jesus your sin and receive him as Savior, he is utterly faithful to take out your old nature, put in a new nature, take out your old desires, give you new desires, take out your old flesh and give you the new Spirit, and I just wanna encourage you, all of you who belong to Jesus, I wanna quote this verse and I wanna speak it over you, Paul says this in Philippians, “I am sure of this, “that he who began a good work in you, “that’s the new nature. “He who began a good work in you “will bring it completion at the day of Jesus.” There is no one that Jesus starts working in that he stops working in, there is no one that God starts working on that he stops working on, there’s nobody that Jesus forgives and then changes his mind, and what I love about this section is that he ends by encouraging us, and I want to end by encouraging you that the best is yet to come. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, “evil lies close at hand.” How many of you, it’s easier to do to the wrong thing than the right thing? How many of you it’s cheaper to do the wrong thing than the right thing? “For I delight in the law of God in my inner being.” He said, “I really love the Bible.” You know you’re a Christian if that’s happened. “But I see in my members, in my body, “another law waging war against the law of my mind “and making me captive to the law of sin “that dwells in my members.” He’s talking about the tug of war, the struggle, the war, the fight. “Wretched man that I am! “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He’s talking about ultimately going to heaven where the battle has ended. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. “So then I myself serve the law of law of God with my mind.” He said, “I know what I’m supposed to do, “but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin, “I don’t do what I’m supposed to do.” I don’t wanna beat you up, I wanna build you up, so let me ask you some questions. Do you have new desires that want to do what God says? If so, you’re in the fight. Do you trust the Bible is God’s Word and do you want to learn it for your obedience? If so, you’re in the struggle. And let me just encourage you, these sermons in Romans have been an hour or an hour and 10 minutes, the sermon is longer than most churches, some of you are new and you’re like, “When does it end?” Never, it never ends. It’s like heaven, it goes forever, okay? You are coming because you want to learn the Word of God. That’s why you’re here, okay? And so you’re coming because the new nature has new desires to learn the Word of God and to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, and since he tells us what to do and he empowers us to do it, we wanna hear what he says and we want him to help us do what he tells us to do, that’s why we’re here. Is your inner being is sometimes at war against your outer desires? You’re like, “I meant to do it, and argh, blew it.” Is there a struggle between who you are at the deepest level and what you do? Because all Christians struggle with temptation, but the deepest desires are for the things of God and the weaker desires are temptations that remove that desire to follow God. Do you know what is right in your mind and get frustrated when you don’t do it? You’re in the fight. Do you hate who you are in the flesh, angry, broken, drunk, violent, disappointed, shamed, cowardly? Do you really prefer who you are in the Spirit, repentant, clean, hopeful, loving, gracious, sober? You’re in the fight. Do you sometimes feel beat up and worn out by your battle with your flesh? You’re like, “Man, it just feels like every day’s a war “and I’m my own worst enemy.” He uses the language of, “Wretched man that I am.” What that is, in the Greek text that was originally written, that’s a weary warrior, that’s like, “Man, I’ve been at war for a long time, “I’m exhausted.” This is where we need to live by the power of the Holy Spirit because the only way to overcome demonic spirits is with the Holy Spirit. We, in and of ourselves, of our own power cannot overcome that which is evil, we need the goodness of God to empower us to fight the good fight. And then he says, he talks about Jesus Christ our Lord, are you thankful that Jesus is your Lord? See, as I was praying for you this week and today, I kinda saw a picture and I wanna share it with you. Here’s your life, you’re living your life on the Earth, some good days, some bad days, some wins and some losses, some victories and some defeats, over your life is the law, the law of God, but above the law is your Lord, and sometimes, all we’re looking at is the law, am I good or bad? Did I obey or disobey? Yes, we need to look at the law, but we need to look through the law and see the Lord who is the Lord over the law. So it’s the Lord, the law, your life. And what he’s been talking about is your relationship with the law, and what he ends with is your relationship with the Lord who is Lord over the law, his name is Jesus, and what he is reminding us is that if all we do is look to the law, we see our sin, but if we look up to the Lord, we see our Savior, and it is not that we live up to the demands of the law, it is that our Lord comes down and pulls us up so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can start to obey the laws. Couple of things I wanna say, for those of you who are parents, your child has the flesh, they’ve not yet received the Spirit. You need to know this as a parent, this is why you can’t just work on behavior modification, but you ultimately need nature regeneration for your child, this is why our goal is not to make our children better, but for God to make them new. They were born in your house, they need to be born again into his house. Number two, if you have a child and you love the Lord, they’re growing up in a spiritual environment of grace in the Holy Spirit, and that is a great blessing and gift to them because it’ll give them a comparison and a contrast between that which is of the Lord and that which is not, and ultimately, here’s what I’ve found, and the reason I just feel inclined to say this is it’s the holiday season, the kids are off of school, you’re going to get more time with them. We’ve added a lot of kids to the roster, we’ve added 630 kids during Romans just to our church family, it’s amazing, but ultimately, what I saw with our kids is that as they were transitioning into their Christian faith for themselves, the flesh put up a last stand. Let’s say we had a kid and you’re like, “Oh, they weren’t too bad.” And then you’re like, “This kid is, like, oh my gosh! “Like, I believe in the Antichrist “and I think they have our last name.” This is kid is really rebellious, sometimes the most rebellious seasons are where the Spirit is pulling them up and the flesh is waging the last stand to pull them down, and so in those moments, parents, don’t get frustrated, pray for your child, don’t yell at your child. Talk to them about who Jesus intends for them to be, not what they’re being in that moment. And for you, as the children of God, which we all are, whether we are young or old, here’s what we need to know, the law is good, we are bad, but the Lord, who is over the law, he is good. I wanna close with this, he talks about Jesus Christ our Lord, what he’s trying to do is get our hearts and our minds and our hope and our future fixed on Jesus. Let me just read in closing from Romans 1 through Romans 14, I just wanna tell you exactly what Romans says about Jesus Christ the Lord, wanna look up to him, he says, “To all those who are loved by God “and called to be saints, “grace to you and peace from God our Father, “and the Lord Jesus Christ. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven “and whose sins are covered, “blessed is the man against whom the Lord “will not count his sin. “Therefore, since we have justified by faith, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” See, the law tells you all the things you’re supposed to do and the Lord tells you all the things he does for you. Goes on to say, “If we were enemies, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, “much more now that we are reconciled “shall we be saved by his life, “more than that, we also now rejoice in God “through our Lord Jesus Christ “through whom we now have received reconciliation.” He says, “Where sin increased, “grace abounded all the more “so that as sin reigned in death, “grace might also reign through the righteousness “leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The law shows us our problem, the Lord is our solution, the law shows us how we fall short, the Lord is the one who comes to lift us up. He goes on to say, “The wage of sin is death, “but the free gift of God is eternal life “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He goes on to say, “Thanks be to God “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He says, “I am 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 “will be able to separate us “from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord “and believe in your heart “that God raised him from the dead, “you will be saved. “The Lord is the same Lord of all, “bestowing his riches on all who call on him, “for everyone who calls “on the name of the Lord will be saved. “Oh, the depths of the riches “and wisdom and knowledge of God, “how unsearchable are his judgments, “how inscrutable his ways, “for who has known the mind of the Lord “or who has been his counselor?” Goes on to say, “Do not be slothful in zeal, “be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ “and make no provision for the flesh “to gratify its desires.” And then he closes with this in Romans 14, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, “if we die, we die to the Lord, “so then whether we live or we die, “we’re the Lord’s, “for this in Christ died and lives again, “that he might be Lord of both the living and the dead.” Here’s your life, here’s his law, there’s your Lord, we’re gonna worship him. Lord Jesus, we lift our eyes up to you, we focus and fix our attention on you, God we’ve looked at our life and we see our sin, we’ve looked at the law, we see the demands, we look up to Jesus and we see our Lord. Lord Jesus, thank you that we don’t need to go up to you, you come down to us, thank you that we don’t need to make ourselves better, that you make us new, thank you that we don’t need to perform so that you would be pleased with us, but that you came down and you lived a perfect life and you’re pleased to love and to save and to seek and to forgive us. God I pray for these dear people, I’m encouraged by their progress, the best is yet to come and we claim that as a promise that he who began the good work in them will see it through to completion until the day of Jesus Christ our Lord, and Lord God, I pray favor on these people, I pray blessing on these people, I pray hope in these people, I pray that new nature and those new desires would receive new power through the Holy Spirit so that they could live like Jesus Christ their Lord, that they could live with Jesus Christ their Lord, that they could live for Jesus Christ their Lord until they see Jesus Christ their Lord, in whose name we pray, amen.

Mark Driscoll
[email protected]

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