Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Like a Rear End Firmly Planted

Our pastors generally wear many hats.  They teach, they lead, the counsel, and more.  In smaller churches, they sometimes are also in charge of worship and children.  It is quite a burden to have. Even if the pastor is able to delegate responsibilities, you generally run into a situation where much work is done by a very few very busy people.  Far too many Christians think that their role in the church is just to sit and be taught to.  They feel church is a place they go to and not a family of which they belong.  Too many do not realize that they have a role in the church family and that God has called all of us to some role in the church.  And while it is true that there are cases where God has people sit on the sidelines for a time, those cases are the exception and not the rule and I will address those as well.  Today our study will focus on Romans 6, but first we will lay some foundation from Romans 12. 
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  Romans 12:4-8 NKJV
This passage is clear in that we all have roles to play. Just as the church as a whole makes up the body of Christ, the individual church members make up the individual parts of that particular body of believers.  God has gifted and called us according to His will and we need to seek that calling in our lives.  We need to seek God in prayer as to what areas we are gifted in and how He wants us to use them as part of the church body.  Failure to function in your part will harm the body as a whole.  As we will see, we are all called to serve God in some way.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  Romans 6:11-13 NKJV
When we come to Christ, we die to our sin.  That is not to say that we will no longer sin, but we are no longer slaves to sin.  When we come to Christ, we have the choice and that choice needs to be to not let sin reign in our bodies.  We are to present ourselves to God and our bodies as instruments of righteousness.  What that means is that we need to allow God to work in us to change from slaves to sin to slaves of God.  Our bodies need to no longer exist to satisfy its own lusts, but to be given to God for His service.  We, as Christians, are all made to be servants of God. 
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Romans 6:14-15 NKJV
Paul continues to idea of us being servants of God.  Praise God we are under grace as children of God because we will not always get it right.  But the attitude should not be one of living in defeat, allowing sin to continue to be our masters but to submit ourselves unto God.  Yes, our sins are forgiven us.  Yes, God will continue to forgive us.  But as Christians we should not take our salvation for  granted but it should have the effect in our lives of changing our hearts to God.  We need to live our lives for God.  This is one of those verses usually taken out of context.  We usually only hear "for you are not under law, but under grace."  In its context, we see that this verse is not a license or excuse for sin, but an reason for righteous living.  Sin no longer has dominion over us, the law no longer has dominion over us and that freedom gives us the ability to choose to live righteously and not the excuse to live unrighteously.
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  Romans 6:16 NKJV
And here is the choice.  There is no neutral ground.  You are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.  You either obey the lusts of your flesh and reap its reward or you obey God leading to righteousness.  There is no middle ground.  There is no such thing as a slave to nothing. If you do not present yourself to God as His slave, you are a slave to sin. 
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  Romans 6:17-18 NKJV
When we obeyed the call of Christ and asked Him to be Lord and savior of our lives, we gave up the right to be slaves of sin.  Remember yesterday when we read by God's word that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price.  We are not our own.  We were purchased by the precious blood of Christ and for good works.  Look at what it says in Ephesians.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10 NKJV
We were created for good works, but before Christ comes into our lives we are slaves to sin and incapable of ever realizing those works created for us by God.  When we come to Christ, we are now free to make those prepared works a reality for our lives.  In Christ, we become slaves to God, free to do every good work laid out for us. 
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  Romans 6:19 NKJV
Before Christ, and as slaves to sin, we reveled in our sin.  Unfortunately, many Christians continue to revel in their sin.  We need to put away those sinful desires and now do the works of God with the same fervor we did the works of the flesh.  We often to do not put the same devotion into our slavery to God as we did in our slavery to sin and that is a very sad and tragic thing.  We need to put even more of ourselves into our slavery to God.  We need to put more of ourselves into the works of God than we did the works of the flesh.  In fact, our works for God should be the center of our efforts.  If we get more excited over our football team winning then we do for someone coming to the Lord, there is something wrong for us.  If we put more commitment into playing a sport than we do in our ministry for the Lord, there is something wrong with us.  We need to be more committed for the works of God than anything else in our lives and especially more than the commitment we had to our sin before we came to know the Lord. 
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  Romans 6:20-21 NKJV
Before Christ, we feel no obligation to righteousness.  We think we are free even though we are slaves to sin.  The freedom we had then was an illusion leading to death.  Those things we used to do are things we are now ashamed of.  Those things we used to do produced no fruit.  Our lives were empty, dead, and meaningless.  Praise God that He revealed that to us showing us our need for Jesus.  What I find interesting here is the assumption that we do think those things of our past are shameful.  If we are not ashamed of our sinful past, there is something wrong with us.  I do not mean a condemning shame where we live in perpetual penance for our past sins.  God has forgiven those sins and separated us from them.  What I mean is a shame in that we know what we did was wrong and not something to be celebrated or held on to.  We need not hate ourselves for what we have done (that is also wrong), but we do need to hate our past actions.  If we hate those things we did in the flesh, we will not be likely to continue them now while in the spirit. 
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:22-23 NKJV
And now we see the glorious contrast.  Our old selves before Christ were empty lives leading to death.  In Christ, we are free from that emptiness and slaves to God bearing fruit to holiness and with the reward of eternal life.  We are free from sin and slaves to God.  We are freed from the empty works of death and called to righteous works bearing eternal rewards. 

Most people do not like the word "slave."  But the problem is not in being a slave, but in who your master is.  In Christ, our Master is God.  In Christ, we are slaves to God.  It is very telling in that God chooses to use the word "slave" to describe us.  He does not call us employees, helpers, assistants, but slaves.  Being slaves, we do not have the right to live for ourselves anymore.  We were purchased with the blood of Christ and there is no better place to be.  God is our Master and as our Master, He is our protector, provider, teacher, overseer, and it is He who calls us and equips us according to His plans and purposes for our lives.  We were created to be His slave, and when we finally give up our own wills and submit to His authority we will find that peace and contentment that can only be provided for God.  After salvation, there is nothing greater than finding those good works God has laid out for us.  We all have a calling in the body of Christ.

Some of you are sitting in the pews thinking your only role is to listen to what the pastor teaches.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  God has a plan for you that involves so much more than being a seat warmer.  Perhaps your excuse is that God has you in that place for now or God has not revealed His plan for your yet.  And while both of those are possible, let me ask you something. What have you done to find that purpose?  Do you pray every day for God to show you where and how He wants you to serve?  Do you read your Bible every day preparing yourself for that day when you are called?  Have you asked others to pray with you?  Do you listen for God's still small voice or expect some grand lighted message in the sky?  If you are not doing all of these things, you are just lazy and looking for excuses.  Perhaps God has not revealed his calling for you because you have not looked or asked for it.  If you truly desire that chance to serve, you would be pleading with God each and every day for direction.  If you truly desired to serve, you would be studying God's word every day preparing yourself for your calling. 

When we come to Christ, we are purchased from our slavery to the sin by the blood of Christ. It may seem contradictory to talk about being slaves of Christ at the same time we talk about our freedom in Christ, but it is not.  We are free from sin and from the penalty of sin.  We are free to become who God created us to be.  We have the freedom to become who we really are in Christ.  There is no greater freedom than that.  Do not cheat yourselves of the blessings of God by being a seat-warmer in your church.  Find where God has called and gifted you and get involved.  Being part of God's work is being part of God's plan not just for your lives, but in the lives of others.  Knowing that we were part of an answer to prayer, or even better that we were part of someone coming to know the Lord, is a tremendously joyful thing.  When we stand before Jesus for the judgment of believers, our works will be judged.  Those works that survive judgment will lead to glorious rewards. Those works that burn will lead to loss.  Heavenly rewards are eternal rewards.  Seek after them. 
...each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthiansa 3:13-15 NKJV

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