Robert Jeffress - Grace-Powered Living - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". If you had to boil down the essence of your Christian faith to just a few simple ideas, leaving out all the extraneous details, what words would you choose? Well, it took the apostle Paul more than just a few sentences, but he managed to explain the essence of the Gospel in the 16 chapters that comprise his letter to the Romans. And today we'll take a bird's eye view of this remarkable book in the Bible. My message is titled "Grace-Powered Living" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
The righteousness of God is available to everyone who comes to Christ through faith. Now let's see briefly, secondly, how Paul develops that theme in this overview of Romans. After the prologue in verses 1-17, the introduction of the book, you'll notice first of all the problem of righteousness in 1:18 to 3:20. Who is it that is guilty before God? Everyone, Paul says. Have you ever had people ask you the question, well, how could a loving God send good people to hell? How many of you have ever heard somebody ask that question before? How could a loving God send good people to hell? There's a very simple answer to that question. There are no good people. There are none. Not one good person. Not in God's eyes.
Look at what he says in 3:9-12. "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all, for we've already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, for as it is written there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God, for all who turn aside together they have become useless. There is none who does good, there is not even one". You can point to all of the good works that this person does and this person does and all the charitable organizations he contributes to and all the things he does for the poor and the sick. It doesn't make any difference to God. Apart from Christ, there is not one righteous good person on the earth. And that's the problem of righteousness, none of us has any of it on our own. But God in his mercy has made a provision for righteousness, a right standing before him, and that's the next section, Romans 3:21 through chapter five. God has provided a way for us to receive his righteousness, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. And in a plan that only God could devise, he's not only the God who condemns humanity, he is the Savior who rescues humanity.
Look at 3:26. "For the demonstration, I say, of his righteousness at the present time, that God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus". That's the amazing thing. He is the just but he's also the justifier. He's not only the judge who condemns us, he's the Savior who redeems us. And as Paul says in this section, this has always been God's plan. Paul was charged. In fact, before he was a Christian he made the charge himself that this sect of Christianity, this is a new religion that says our righteousness comes by faith and not by works. Not so, Paul came to understand. As he looked back in the Old Testament he saw this was God's plan from the beginning. It was never God's plan that we would be saved by works. It was always by God's grace received through faith. And in this section Paul illustrates that truth by looking at Abraham and king David, the heroes of Judaism. And that leads to the next section of the book of Romans, the power of righteousness.
Now some of you are thinking right now, well, the righteousness, the right standing before God, I already have that because I trusted in Christ as my Savior, so why do we need to hear this over and over again? As Paul demonstrates in Romans 6-8, the righteousness of God is more than your get-out-of-hell free card, okay? The righteousness of God has benefits on this side of the grave as well as on the other side of the grave. In fact, if you've really received a right standing with God, by faith it's going to affect your works. You're going to be free from the power of sin in your life if you've really received that right standing with God. A key verse, Romans 6:6-7. "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin".
If you are truly in a right relationship with God, if the Holy Spirit is truly residing in your life, then that means the same power that lifted Jesus out of the grave is available to you to deliver you from the power of sin. And if you still find yourself a slave to sin, falling into the same patterns over and over and over again, that's strong evidence that you may not truly be in a right standing with God. If you're in a right standing with God, if you are righteous, it's going to affect how you live now, in the here and now, not just in the hereafter. And then Paul moves into a discussion of the program of righteousness. Romans 9-11. These are the deepest theological waters we will ever wade in together as a church. As Paul discusses the fact that God's plan for righteousness doesn't exclude the Jewish person. The Gospel is for the Jew first and for the Greek also. In Romans 11:25 he makes that clear and he says, "I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles has come".
Paul also says in this section but God's plan for us to be in a right standing with him, that was a plan developed before the foundation of the world and it was based on God's sovereign choice. Pastor, are you saying God chooses some people to be saved but doesn't choose others? And if he does, isn't that totally unfair that God would choose some people to be saved and not choose everyone to be saved? Well, let's see how Paul answers that question in this section. Turn over to Romans 9:13-18. "Just as it is written, 'Jacob I loved,' God said, 'and Esau I hated'. What should we say then? There's no injustice with God, is there? May it never be. For God says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'".
Wait a minute, Paul, what about man's free will? Can't man choose on his own to serve God? Verse 16, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, 'for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth'. So then God has mercy on whom he desires and he hardens whom he desires". That's tough stuff. But Paul talks about that, and we're going to talk about it as well. Now, Paul was no armchair theologian. He believed that this truth of the righteousness of God oughta affect our everyday life, and that's what he talks about in Romans 12-16, the practice of righteousness.
Remember how Paul starts this section in Romans 12:1-2? "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world". I love the way the Phillips paraphrase this. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold". "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect".
In this section Paul is going to talk about how the righteousness of God oughta affect our relationship with other Christians, with non-Christians and with the government. And one of the things Paul is going to discuss in this section is a very controversial subject even today. And what about those areas of life that the Bible doesn't address specifically? What about, for example, drinking alcoholic beverages? Is a Christian free to do that? What should be our response? Isn't it amazing, the same issues being debated 2.000 years later after Paul talked about the subject? Well, he addresses that in this subject. I'll just give you a hint of what he says, look at 14:14-17. Paul said, "I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. But to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it's unclean, it's wrong. For if because of food," or drink, he's using food in a generic sense, "If because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil, for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".
Now that's a brief overview of what we're going to look at in the book of Romans, which one writer said is the Cathedral of our faith. And you may be thinking, well, this looks interesting, pastor, but again, of all the books of the Bible we could be studying, why Romans and why now? I'm going to close today by giving you three reasons I think this message is specially important to our church at this time. First of all, because of the makeup of our church. The makeup of our church. I don't have to tell you that our church is changing demographically very, very rapidly. Our church is growing demonstrably younger is one way. Another way it's changing is we're becoming more diverse ethnically, economically, and spiritually.
People from all different backgrounds are now coming to our church, and that is a great thing. That's exactly the way God meant for our church to be. But in becoming more diverse we're like the church at Roman, the church at Jerusalem, that had people from all backgrounds coming to it. When we have diversity we shouldn't assume that everybody is reading of the same page. And that foundation is not what Baptists believe. That foundation is what the Word of God teaches. And that's why it's important for us as a church I think right now to go back to the basics of the faith, and there's no better book to do that than the book of Romans. This book is going to be that spiritual soil I talked about last week that is going to give you the nourishment you need to grow in your individual faith.
Ladies and gentlemen, First Baptist Church Dallas will be no stronger spiritually than its members are strong individually. So that's why we're studying the book of Romans right now, one reason is because of our makeup. Secondly, because of our message. It's time for us as we have a broader and broader outreach to make sure we understand what our message is that we're sharing. How many times do you hear people say our message shouldn't be one of condemnation? We shouldn't talk about God's judgment, we should only talk about God's love. Don't you hear that all of the time? We don't need to talk about condemnation, we just need to talk about salvation. Wrong. Wrong, says the apostle Paul.
Look at how he arranges Romans. The first three chapters of Romans are a blistering indictment on God's condemnation against all people. Who is guilty before God, Paul asked. What about that heathen, that pagan in Africa who has never had an opportunity to trust in Christ, what about him? Guilty, says Paul, guilty. What about that homosexual who is in a loving monogamous relationship? Good and kind, what about him? Guilty, says the apostle Paul. What about that heterosexual who's involved in an adulterous relationship? Guilty, says the apostle Paul. What about that church member who gives regularly to the church, he does good things but has never trusted in Christ personally? Guilty, says the apostle Paul.
What about the person of the Jewish faith who sincerely believes that Judaism is the path to heaven? He's a good righteous religious person, what about him? Guilty, says the apostle Paul. All mankind is condemned before God. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no good news to share with anyone unless you understand the bad news first of all. There's no great news about salvation. Most people you talk to don't even know they need salvation until they first of all understand their condemnation before God. It is not our condemning them, it's not our judging them, we're simply saying what God says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".
The book of Romans is a reminder of our message, it is a twofold message. The holiness of God, but also the salvation of God through Christ. Thirdly, the book of Romans is a good reminder of our method of sharing this message. You know, our vision is to transform the world with God's word, one life at a time, and God's helping us to do that. But the question is, how do we go about accomplishing that vision? We have all kind of new methodologies that are open to us and this church has always historically embraced new methods if they were affected in sharing the Gospel. There are a lot of other churches that are embracing new methodologies, but not only are they changing their methods, they're changing their message as well. They're deluding the message of God's word in order to attract a crowd.
One pastor of a so-called seeker-friendly church gave this advice to fellow pastors on how to prepare messages that reach people. He said, quote, "Visit those how-to sections in your local bookstores. Periodically examine Issues of Time, Newsweek and USA Today, as these publications tend to be on the cutting edge of the felt needs and fears people are facing. Limit your preaching to roughly 20 minutes". Says, "Amen, you're dead to me, okay"? No, he says, "Limit your preaching to roughly 20 minutes because boomers don't have too much time to spare. And don't forget to keep your messages light and informal, liberally sprinkling them with humor and personal anecdotes". No wonder so many churches today are impotent and anemic.
Douglas Webster exposes the problem with that kind of method when he writes, "Biblically preaching was God-centered, sin-exposing, self-convicting, and lie-challenging, the direct opposite of today's light informal sermons that Christianize self-help and entertain better than they convict. There are so many illustrations in today's market-sensitive sermons that the hero forgets the biblical truth that is being illustrated. There are so many personal anecdotes that the hero knows the pastor better than she knows Christ. So many human intra-stories that listening to the sermon is easier than reading the Sunday paper. So practical that there's hardly anything to practice. No wonder nominal Christians leave church feeling upbeat. Their self esteem is safely intact. Their minds and hearts have been sparked and soothed with soundbite theology, Christian maxims, and a few practical pointers dealing with self-esteem, kids or work. But the question remains, has the Word of God been effectively and faithfully proclaimed? Penetrating comfort zones and the veneer of self-satisfaction with the truth of Jesus Christ".
Ladies and gentlemen, I praise God that our church is growing. But I want to say to you that regardless of whether we have 5.000 here, 500 here or 50 here, we are not going to dilute the Gospel in order to attract the crowd. We're not going to do that. Paul's method of church growth that literally turned the world upside down, his method for growing the church was to preach the Gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God into salvation that everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then to the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for it's as it is written. The just shall live by faith".