Jack Graham - Your Spiritual Revolution
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 7. And I want to talk to you about revolution. Not American Revolution, a national revolution but spiritual revolution. It's really the theme of the book of Romans, isn't it, as we've been looking at it, as we've been studying it passage by passage? We understand now that every person is guilty before a holy God, and sin has condemned us. We are destined to judgment because of our sin, but God in His Son, Jesus Christ, gave us eternal life. It's called justification. We're made right with God; His righteousness is now ours. We are accredited with His righteousness. We have accrued this righteousness to ourselves by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We learned in Romans chapter 5 and verse 8 that God has "demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". We learned in chapter 6 of Romans, verse 23: "The wage of sin is death, but the gift of eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord". What a great salvation! And yet eternal vigilance is the price of this freedom, because there is an ongoing struggle, just as there's an ongoing struggle for freedom in the world and in the nation, there is an ongoing struggle in this spiritual freedom, because salvation, justification is just getting started. Though it began in eternity-past when God loved you and set His mind, heart and affection upon you, it began in you when you received Christ as your Savior and now you have, not will have, but now you have eternal life.
And we noted that when we are saved, we are saved from the penalty of sin. But not only are we saved now from the penalty of sin, but we are being saved from the power of sin. This is called sanctification, in that we are growing stronger in this grace that we've been given; we are growing up in our faith and we are learning more and more to live out this Christian life, as we are being saved. We have our identity in Christ, that comes with justification; and now we have our growing maturity in Christ, that comes through sanctification. And so here we go. We’re living in Christ; we’re no longer dead to sin. We know who we are; we’re counting and applying and appropriating these great truths to our lives, and we are yielding our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. So we’re ready to go onward and upward, forward forever! But oh-oh!
Then comes Romans 7! Part of me wants to just skip Romans 6 and move right on to Romans 8, and we're going to get to Romans 8. But stuck in the middle with you is Romans 7, and all of us! Chapter 7 of Romans begins with a lengthy discussion about our relationship to the law. And when you read Romans 7, it talks about the law, the law, the law, and the impact and the influence of the law on our lives. And the law is spiritual according to this passage of scripture. The law is spiritual, the law of God is good. There are people who say the law of God is now expired. The Ten Commandments are no longer relevant; they're obsolete. No! The Ten Commandments, the law of God, the holy and moral law of God written by the very hand, the very finger of God. They still apply!
Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments". We're not saved by the law; in now way are we saved by keeping the law! That's what we've been learning all along. Not any of us are saved by doing good, because "There is none righteous, no not one". But Christ has fulfilled the law. He is the embodiment of the law, and when Christ died for our sins, He took our place on the cross and now we live in the law of God by the power of the cross and the resurrection! We live according to God's commandments which are good and perfect. Jesus summed them all up with two: He said, "You're to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul and strength. And the second is like it, your neighbor as yourself".
So yes, the law is good! And Paul talks about the law and the relationship that we have to the law. But then in verse 14 of chapter 7, he shares a personal testimony of his own spiritual journey, "For we know that the law is spiritual", that is it comes from God, "but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.
Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin".
Whoa! Who's talking here? The GOAT: the Greatest Of All Time! The greatest Christian in my view who ever lived! The man who wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit 13 of the 27 New Testament books. And even as he's writing Romans, he's talking about his own spiritual struggle with sin and self. When Paul talks about his own autobiography in Christ and he includes the struggle, and that the struggle is real, it's inclusive of Paul, it's inclusive of all. And every one of us can identify with the great apostle here in this struggle, in this war that comes within. We should be encouraged by the fact that Paul opens up and owns his own struggle because it reminds us that if Paul experienced this and found victory in Jesus through this, then by God's grace we can as well.
Incredible, isn’t it, that Paul would say, "Oh wretched man that I am"? A word which means miserable. Someone called this message the cry of an unhappy Christian. Paul is miserable. And the most miserable person on earth is most often not the unsaved person, but the saved person out of fellowship with God. And Paul is dealing with his frustration and his fellowship with God. And he said, "O wretched man"! It’s a declaration; it’s an acclamation, and it’s also an intercession. He says, "Who will rescue me? Who will deliver me from this dying body, this body of death"? He's saying what so many of us have said. "What is wrong with me? I want to live a Christian life; I want to obey God; I want to please God by doing what God says, but I'm struggling! There's something wrong within"!
And what is wrong within is this spiritual battle, this civil war that takes place between the old me, (remember the old Adam?) and the new me. When you come, when we come to faith in Christ, we are given a brand-new nature, new desires, a new direction in life, a new determination to obey God, a new dynamic to live for Christ! But the old nature, the old me, my flesh, what I was BC (before Christ), that remains. And for all of our lives, all of our days until we get to heaven, as Christians we will struggle with self and struggle with sin. But the question is: How do we win? If we've been given all this victory in Christ, these promises, this provision in Christ that we are alive and the resurrection power is in us, how can we live? How can we win? Number one, I'm going to say, "Prepare for battle, prepare for the war".
It was Benjamin Franklin, the father of our nation, who said to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. So peace with God comes as a result of a wars, being in the fight. Again, it's the struggle that we all have, and we have it all the time. We never get to the place of perfection this side of eternity, this side of heaven. Because we're always struggling and we're always growing through the pain, through the process of this fight between the flesh and the Spirit, the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We have three enemies if we're talking about a war, if we're talking about a battle. We know we have an infernal enemy, the devil. The devil is an enemy, the devil is real and the devil attacks us certainly and all his demonic forces.
So there's the devil. There's the world system. The world that is anti-God and anti-Christ, call it culture, call it society, call it a world without God which always wants to conform it, conform us into its own mold. Later on, in Romans chapter 12 we're going to read: "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". The world wants to conform us, to compromise us. And so there's the pressure of the world without. But then there's a big battle of the war within; that goes on inside of us! This struggle, and the struggle is real! And we face sin and temptation and failure and fall into disobedience throughout the days of our lives because old habits and old attitudes and old anxieties and old anger and old lust and old lies, they keep resurfacing.
It's as though these are the residuals of an old life, the dredges at the bottom of your coffee pot! Still there! It's also kind of like an undertow in the water, just dragging you, pulling you away from the shore. "The wretched man that I am". You might look at Paul’s testimony and his transparency here and say something like, "Well, I guess Paul must have been a hypocrite because Paul was saying one thing and doing something else". The great Apostle Paul! He’s struggling with all this sin! What were his sins? What were his besetting sins? What were the problems of self? We don’t know exactly. But we know it was real for Paul. And he’s struggling. But he’s not a hypocrite and neither are you when you struggle with sin! You’re a hypocrite when you hide your sin and you cover up your sin, and are not honest and open and own your sin. You are a hypocrite when you quit resisting sin. Get it?
Turn in your Bibles to Galatians chapter 5, Galatians 5, and look with me at verses 16. This is a well-known comparable passage. One way you learn to read the scripture and interpret God's Word is to move from scripture to scripture, and there are tools that can help you do that. And here's a comparable commentary on Romans 7. He says: "I say then walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desires of the flesh". Desires there, lust is another word for what we are experiencing in the flesh. It's the old desires, the old lusts. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh. These are opposed to each other. There's the war within. So that you don't do what you want, but if you are led by the Spirit, you're not under the law, that is, the law of the flesh, and the laws of God which we cannot keep.
We're now led by the Spirit, by the Spirit of Christ. What's he saying? He's saying here's this war that's going on, the flesh and the Spirit, the desires of the flesh, the desires of the Spirit; what God wants and what I want. The problem is self. We keep feeding the flesh. There's an old axiom which says if you want to overcome sin in your life, starve the flesh and feed the Spirit. If you feed the flesh, you'll starve the Spirit. Well, what are we talking аbout: this self, this flesh, these desires? It’s self; it’s ego. It’s Jack not Jesus on the throne of my life. It’s my taking command and control of me. It’s self on the throne.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 1, we'll put it on the screen. You want to note it. It says: So this idea of flesh is immaturity and it's childishness; acting like a child when we should be growing up in Christ. That's what we're all dealing with these days. It's a problem for you; it's a problem for me. Paul says in verse 18 of chapter 7, he says: "I know that there is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh". Not good. But now for some good news! Stay in the battle. Prepare for the war, know your enemies and stay in the battle! That's what is happening here in Romans 7. He's fighting, he's resisting! You really have only two options when it comes to dealing with sin and overcoming sin in your life and one is to relent and the other is to resist!
And Paul refused to give in, and neither should we give in! We’re to keep fighting, knowing that we’re not perfect, but God is not interested in our perfection; He’s interested in the direction of our lives. You are new but not perfect; but now you’re progressing. And if you will stay in the fight and keep fighting in the power of God’s Spirit, you’ll find yourself winning more and more over the power of sin. It is the presence and the power of Jesus in us that enables us to overcome sin and self and Satan.
Zachariah 4:6: "‘Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord". Ultimately Paul is victorious and he explains it after his question: "Who shall deliver me? Who shall rescue me from this body of death"? He says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord". There is victory in Jesus! Amen? There is victory in Christ! You are to fight back! You're to do what Paul is saying here: "Shout the victory! Thanks be unto God through our victory in Jesus Christ"! "Resist the enemy and he will flee from you". Stay in the fight! Be willing to go for it and take your punch, your best shot at the enemy!
That’s what David did. When Goliath was talking and trash-talking the name of God, David was indignant that no one would go out to fight, so the shepherd boy went out with a slingshot and a few stones, and he killed the giant. And I love the story that says when he saw the giant, and the giant was laughing and mocking at this little boy who’s coming at him, David begins to run to the battle! He ran to the giant. The giant is a picture of Satan himself. And David overcame his fears, and with his faith he conquered the giant, defeated the giant. Why? Because he had a cause that was greater than himself. It was the cause of the kingdom. It was the name of the Lord. He said, "I come to you with the name of the Lord our God".
Paul ultimately was victorious; he kept on fighting. I love what he said in Philippians 3. He said, "Not that I’ve already attained or reached the goal or are already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I’ve been taken hold of by Christ Jesus". Jesus has captured me. I’m no longer a slave of sin; I’m a slave of Jesus. Whose slave are you? He said, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it". I'm not there yet. "I want to do some things; I don't do them. I don't want to do some things; and I do them". He said, I'm not there yet! "But this one thing I do, this one thing: forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forward to those things which are before, I pursue my goal, the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus".
Keep fighting! He was later able to say, "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, I have run the race and fought the good fight". Keep fighting! Stand up to the enemy. Stand up to yourself and your own selfish desires. I believe that God has called me to be on the front line of a spiritual revolution now! I believe God is calling you as well! Front line of the battle! Pushing back the darkness! Defeating the enemy! Honoring the King! Advancing the kingdom! Yes, you are a warrior! Don’t wimp out! Stay in the battle because "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world". Paul said, "When I'm weak", when I'm ready to wimp out and quit, "that's when I'm strong; that the power of Christ enables me in the middle of my weakness".
The Revelation says, "They overcame him", that is, Satan, "by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even unto death". You're a warrior; go win in Jesus' name. Why? Romans 8:37, can't wait to get to Romans 8 because when we get to Romans 8, you know what, in stead of "I, me, my, I, I, I, I" in Romans 7, Paul and we make the discovery of the Spirit. Look at Romans chapter 8 real quickly. I'm 'bout to land this plane. But Romans 8: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation".
Remember, there weren’t verses and numbers between these passages as they were written. So we go right from Romans 7 as according to these words: "Therefore no condemnation for those who in Christ because the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free". We’re free by the Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty and Romans 8 which begins with "no condemnation" and concludes with no separation, tells us that "We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us" and gave Himself for us. Wholeheartedly give your life to Christ. Make a difference.
Live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Start going to church. By the way if you’re coming to church, stop coming as a consumer and be a worshipper. Don’t be a taker; don’t be just a taker; be a giver! Utilize your spiritual gifts and you have them, in spiritual ministry, serving the Lord. Get your family involved. Worship, grow, serve, witness, be a light, pray and obey the Spirit, because the strongest people are the people who pray! And there is victory in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen.