Greg Laurie - Bringing The Gospel Back Home
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Why study the book of Romans? Answer: because Romans is the Gospel taught to believers. You know, we throw the term or the word Gospel around a lot. Our theme is bringing the Gospel home. What does that even mean? It's amazing how many people actually don't understand the Gospel. Let me restate that. It's amazing how many Christians don't understand the Gospel. Romans is the book to go to for answers about what the Gospel is. Study of this book transformed the lives of very significant people in church history starting with Augustine, and then martin Luther, John wesley, and even a pastor named chuck smith. The great swiss commentator F. Godet wrote that "In all probability, every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book".
So we pray that will happen for us as a church. Why study Romans? Because Romans is the most basic comprehensive statement of what the Gospel is in all of the Bible. The most basic comprehensive statement of what the Gospel is in all of the Bible. It's of course in Romans 3:23 that we read, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". That is why Christ came, and it's surprising how many people, even Christians sometimes, will believe that if you live a good life you will get to heaven. If Romans does nothing else, it refutes that idea once and for all because you're not good enough to get the heaven, regardless of how many good works you have done.
Paul systematically addresses every person with every kind of argument as to why God would accept them on their own merit. He deals with pagan people in chapter 1. He deals with moral people. Then he deals with religious people and the conclusion is everybody has to come through Jesus. Everybody has to acknowledge their sin because Romans offers a solution to sin. Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ". Romans 5:8, "God demonstrated his love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". Romans 10:13, "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved".
One word that we've seen a few times in our study of Romans is the word "Justification". It's very important we understand and appreciate what God has done for us. Justification means that God has forgiven you of all of your sin, and it also means that he has placed the righteousness of Christ into your account. One way justification has been defined is "Just as if it never had happened". Romans 5 says we're justified by faith and so we have peace with God. Now if you really get this, it's going to cause you to want to live a godly life. It's going to cause you to want to serve the Lord and discover his plan for you in light of all he's done for you.
But some might misunderstand this wonderful teaching and misuse this wonderful teaching and think, well because I'm saved and because I'm justified and because it's just as if it never had happened, hey man, God's kind have given me a license to sin. I can go out and pretty much do whatever I want to do wow. You talk about missing the point. There are people that live this way. They'll say, "I believe in once saved always saved". And then they're living in a pattern of habitual and continual sin. Now look. Every Christian is going to sin. Indisputable fact of the universe. We're going to sin. The Bible even says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". Okay. Having said that, that does not give us an excuse to willfully go out and sin against God. Whoever continues in sin without remorse is not in danger of losing their salvation: rather by their choices, they reveal they may have never had salvation to begin with.
Let me say that again. Whoever continues in sin without remorse is not in danger of losing their salvation: but rather by their choices, they reveal that they may have never had salvation to begin with. Because 1 John 3:8 says, "When people keep on sinning it shows they belong to the devil who has been sinning since the beginning". So this is the thing: God has justified us and in light of that we should want to live a life that honors him. I'm going to bring a new word to your vocabulary for some of you. It's the word sanctification. What does that mean? That's addressed here in Romans 6 verses 1-4. By the way, that was all the introduction to the message. Everything that's happened has been the introduction. It's the longest introduction of all time.
Now there's going to be a six minute message to follow, but it was actually more of a recap is what it was. Romans 6:1 the new living translation, "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the father, now we also may live new lives". We'll stop there. Paul is telling us we can live lives of spiritual victory. Chapter 6. We can live lives of spiritual liberty. Chapter 7. And we can live lives of spiritual security chapter 8.
The problem is some Christians will stop at salvation, but they don't understand that now there should be the fruit of the results in your life. Billy Graham said, "Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It's a daily process whereby we grow to be more and more like Christ". So let me contrast for a moment salvation, or let me use another word "Regeneration". That's what happens when you believe in Jesus. You're regenerated. You're saved. Let's contrast salvation and sanctification. Salvation is coming to Christ. Sanctification is growing in Christ. Salvation happens in a moment bringing a sinner from spiritual death to life. Sanctification is an ongoing process. Salvation is being forgiven of past sin. Sanctification is where we break free from the power of sin. This is something God does in our lives. And it never stops until we get to heaven.
By the way, there's God's part and there's my part. God is the one who sanctifies me because I'm told over in 1 Thessalonians 5, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved until the coming of the Lord". So he does it but I need to cooperate with him because the Bible says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure". That does not say "Work for your own salvation". That's impossible. Salvation is a gift of God, but work out your own salvation or a better translation, carry it to the goal and fully complete. Live it out, experience it and it should effect you in your day to day choices, and Paul sums this up by saying, "Hey man, when you were..". He didn't say "Hey man," I just threw that in. That's the new Greg translation. "Hey man, hey dude". No he says, "When you were baptized that was like a burial". He says, "You're buried with Christ by baptism".
How many of you have been baptized in water? Raise your hand up. That's good. If you haven't been yet, you need to be. You say, "But why"? Short answer: because the Bible commands you to be baptized. The Bible says to repent and be baptized. Some will say, "I was baptized as a baby, does that count"? Did you repent? Babies don't generally repent. They don't know what's happening. So it's something you need to do with an understanding, but it's sort of like a happy funeral service. When your body is immersed in the ocean or in the baptismal tank or wherever it is you're baptized and you come out, it's sort of like the end of the old you and the beginning of the new you in a symbolic way. Baptism is an outward showing of an inward doing. You don't need to be baptized to be saved, but if you're saved you should be baptized.
I heard about a pastor who was baptizing a guy who lived a pretty wicked life, and he said to the pastor before he immersed him, "Pastor, hold me down a long time. I have a lot to bury". So you know. Don't hold him down too long. We don't want him to literally die under the water. But that's a symbol and now I am to walk in newness of life. It's like I was dead and I'm alive again. Remember when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Now, Lazarus had been dead a long time. In fact, his sister said "Lord, by now he stinketh".
That's the king James translation, which I really like the word stinketh. That's a great king James word isn't it? She was basically saying, "Lord, he's in the process of decomposition. He's not coming back to life again". Jesus said, "Your brother will live again". Martha says, "Yeah. Right. I don't think so. Maybe in the last day. Maybe in the day of the resurrection". Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die".
Then he turned to the tomb of Lazarus and he said, "Lazarus, come forth". And out of the grave, back from the other side comes Lazarus wrapped up in bandages. Almost like a mummy. He was sort immobilized so he's sort of like "Here I am" and I love what Jesus says next. "Loose him and let him go". Cut this guy loose. He can't go anywhere like that. So he was raised to life, but now he had to live like it. For a lot of us, we've been raised to life. We believe Jesus has saved us. We believe Jesus has justified us. But then if we go in sort of this lifestyle of sin, we're not living like a saved person. We're living like a spiritually dead person. As warren wiersbe says in his commentary, "These people are betweeners". They live in a self-imposed wilderness of compromise between Egypt and Canaan. They're saved, but they're never satisfied. They live between good Friday and easter believing in the power of the cross but never entering into the glory of the resurrection.
Are you a betweener? Are you a person who is saved, you believe in Jesus, but you're still bound to a certain sin? A certain vice has a hold on you. A certain thing you've tried to break through, break free from in 2018 and have not been very successful and you're entering into 2019 you're already engaging in it again and you're saying, "Does this pattern have to continue"? Listen, God can break that pattern of sin and you can walk in newness of life living a sanctified life as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I'm not saying you'll be sinless. Anyone who tells you they're sinless is an idiot because we all sin. But I am saying you can sin less. You say, "Greg, I can't stop sinning. I can't control it. It's just human nature". Yes you can. You make choices. Remember Jesus said to the man he healed in John 5. "Stop sinning or something worse may come upon you". For every temptation you've ever faced in life that you've given into if you think back you'll remember there was always a way out and there was the power from God to give you the resolve to take that way out. So if you didn't take that way out, it's not God's fault. It was a bad choice that you made. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "There is no temptation taking you but such as is common to man".
We all face those temptations, but God who is faithful will not allow you to be tempted above your capacity to resist, but will with the temptation make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it, endure it or get through it somehow. There's always a way out. We make our choices and then our choices make us. You remember I wrote a book called "Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon". We made a film out of it as well.
Well I'm writing a new book right now on the life of Johnny Cash. Now, I've always been a fan of Johnny Cash. Any of you Johnny Cash fans? Amazing thing about Johnny Cash is that he transcends generations. My parent's generation loved Johnny. My generation did. Young people today love Johnny. He was a very interesting character because to a lot of sinners, Johnny was a saint and to a lot of saints they thought this guy was a sinner. The reality is he was both. Johnny was a believer in Jesus Christ and he used his platform to proclaim his faith in Christ. He, actually many people don't know this, I've discovered this in researching his life, he became an ordained minister and was a great student of scripture.
But having said all of that, Johnny struggled in life and he struggled through a good portion of his life. In fact he said it of himself, "I confess right up front that I'm the biggest sinner of them all, but my faith in God has always been a solid rock that I've stood on no matter where I was or what I was doing. I was a bad boy at times but God was always there for me and I knew that and I guess maybe I took advantage of that". Let's say he also reaped the repercussions of that because of some lifestyle decisions that affected his health, but Johnny always turned back to the Lord.
Now you say, "Greg, why write a book about a guy like that"? Because he represents a lot of people out there right now that just struggle. They struggle in the Christian life. They don't go from glory to glory. They take two steps forward and fall and get up and go a few more feet and they fall. It's hard for them. He didn't have to live that way. He chose to live that way and right now he's in heaven because he put his faith in Christ and I think his story is fascinating but I bring this up because some struggle in life more than others. You wonder which one am I going to be? The Bible, among other things, is a very honest book and when our heroes mess up the Bible tells us. The Bible tells us that after Noah filled an ark with a bunch of stinky animals and bobbed around the ocean and came to that new place that God had created for him and he was just a man of faith, he was the greatest example, and then he went out and got drunk. The Bible tells us that.
Like if I was writing it, I would've left that part out, but the Bible puts it in there because this is what happened. The Bible tells us that Abraham, the father of faith, our great leader and example, lied on multiple occasions, the Bible tells us that David, the man after God's own heart, committed adultery and effectively committed murder to hide his adultery. The Bible tells us that the mighty Samson who was empowered by the Holy Spirit and could do supernatural feats of strength was a man that made many bad decisions morally and reaped the consequences of it. So these are believers that struggled. They didn't have to give into those sins, but the story is given to us in its entirety.
But then there's other men and women of the Bible that we don't of a read of them compromising or struggling with any sin. Not that they didn't, but it's not mentioned. We don't know of any sin Joseph committed except maybe bragging about dreams and being a little too prideful about his super cool coat. I don't know. Pretty minor on the scale of sins, I guess, and he was tempted big time by the wife of Potiphar. We don't read of any sin that Daniel committed or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Fast-forwarding to the New Testament, or Paul or John, but we certainly know about the sins and lapse of Simon Peter. So really, here's what it comes down to: you choose what kind of Christian life you want to live. You want to live a life of struggle. Fall down. Get up. Be forgiven. Great. We all need that at certain points, but if you want to live in constant struggle, you can live that way: or you can live in newness of life provided for you by Jesus Christ through the cross by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I think as we come to the beginning of this year that we ought to make a commitment to Jesus. There's some of you here that have never asked Jesus Christ to come into your life and forgive you of your sin. This is the time to do it. This is the moment to do it because he died on the cross for you and he shed his blood for you and he will forgive you no matter what you've done. But then there are some of you here that believe in Jesus and you've put your faith in Jesus but you're a little bit more like Johnny Cash was. You struggle and you keep falling back to these same sins over and over again but you don't want to live that way anymore. You want to make a commitment or a recommitment to Christ. So I am going to lead you in a simple prayer, I am going to ask that you would pray this out loud after me. Again as I pray, pray this out loud after me now. Let's all pray. Pray these words if you would. This is for everybody at all campuses. Pray these words.
Lord Jesus I know that I am a sinner but I know that you are the Savior who died on the cross and shed your blood for every sin I have ever committed. I am sorry for my sin. I turn from my sin. I repent of my sin. I want to walk in newness of life. I want to live a sanctified life. I want to live a God honoring life so fill me with your Holy Spirit. I commit myself to you. In Jesus' name I pray amen.