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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Greatest Sermon Ever Written: The Cosmic Battle
Text:Romans 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2023-01-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Belgic Confession Article 14, Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 33

Text: Romans 6

 

THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN: THE COSMIC BATTLE

  1. The Battleground

  2. The Daring Rescue that Leaves You Dead

  3. Life in the Enemy’s Camp

  4. Life in the Father’s House

 

  1. Psalm 84: 1, 2, 5

  2. Psalm 23A (alternate): 1-5

  3. Psalm 86: 1, 2, 4

  4. Psalm 27: 2, 3, 6

  5. Psalm 19: 5, 6

  6. Hymn 46: 1-4

 

Words to Listen For: chunks, chink, bomb, loudest, 110%

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is Paul fighting for?  Who is Paul fighting against?

  2. Where did we start?  Where did we end up trapped?

  3. What is the enemy’s camp?  Why is is called this?

  4. What are some Biblical metaphors for temptation?

  5. What the difference between a wage and a gift?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

We all love stories.  Each and every one of us, whether we realize it or not.

We all love stories.  Stories are the lifeblood of culture.  Stories about the past, how we got here.  Stories about the present, how we work through our daily challenges, our joys, our sorrows.  Stories about the future, giving us hope or dread for what is to come.

Stories are the way we as human beings make sense of our reality.

And what we want, what we really need is a good story.

And we all cope with this desire in different ways.

There are those who want a good story and say to themselves: I’m going to make my life a good story.

I’m going to soak up the sun, put some wind in the sails, put a million miles on my boots.  I want a good story, so I’m going to LIVE a good story.

On the other hand, there are those who are content to watch good stories unfold on television and in the movies.  Maybe to inspire themselves to a more epic life.  I really want to live like this character.  I want to be strong, I want to be virtuous, I want to be clever and always 10 steps ahead of everyone else.  This fictional character in this fictional story is my hero.

And then, in the middle, are those who read good stories.  Though they aren’t living the story themselves, they create the world around them using their imagination just from words on a page.

We all love stories.  And this is something that our God has ingrained in us.  He has ingrained this love of stories in our hearts because He has made us part of the greatest story ever told.

A story that is just as true as a biography

A story that is filled with as many battles as a World War II epic

A story that has castles and dragons and kings, just like a fairy tale

A story whose main character is 1, 2, 50 steps ahead of everyone else

This is a story we can see unfolding before us in the greatest reality show of all time: REALITY ITSELF.

This is a story we can read in the greatest book ever written.

And this is a story that we ourselves are currently living out.

So join me this morning as we once more crack open the pages of 

THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN: and find in there the epic story of THE COSMIC BATTLE.  We will see:

  1. The Battleground, we will examine

  2. The Daring Rescue that Leaves You Dead, we will experience

  3. Life in the Enemy’s Camp, and finally we will look forward to

  4. Life in the Father’s House
     

THE COSMIC BATTLE: The Battleground

What shall we say then?

There’s nothing more engaging, nothing more exciting than a story that begins right in the action!

Our text begins with the Apostle Paul in the middle of an epic argument.  An argument about the very foundation of the gospel!

 

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may about?  BY NO MEANS!

By no means!

Certainly not!

Perish the thought!

This kind of thinking undermines the whole gospel!!

But let’s back up.

What exactly is this argument?  This is an argument about WHAT?  This is an argument with WHOM?

 

For this we have to go back two verses.

We’ve done this before in this series.  Romans is this amazing epic sermon where one point flows into the next into the next, and so, the best way to really preach through Romans is to take enormous chunks of it, and preach for a few hours.

But.  I won’t do that to you.  So here, we will use the second best method.

Romans 5:20 - Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remind me again of Paul’s argument?  I’d be happy to!  Let’s unpack this.  

The last time sermon in the series was technically a Lord's Day sermon - we looked at Lord’s Day 7 through the lens of Romans 5:12-21, and we saw that Christ is greater than Adam.  He is greater in so many ways, and what He accomplished is greater than what Adam destroyed.

And so if what Adam did paved the way for what Christ did…

If the law that increased transgressions by labelling them, calling them out, making them ILLEGAL instead of just IMMORAL…if the increase of transgressions, sins, led to the increase of grace and salvation…

Couldn’t we…you know…do that ourselves?

If it’s all about God’s glory as we heard…if this is all for our God to be magnified, and showing grace gives Him glory…why wouldn’t we give Him more opportunities to show grace?

It’s like the example of the diamond on black velvet.  The black velvet shows the diamond’s shine SO MUCH MORE CLEARLY.  So…why wouldn't we try to make our velvet as black as possible?  Why wouldn’t we dive headlong into sin, passionately and often, giving God an opportunity to show His grace, passionately and often?

It’s a warped and twisted argument…but it makes some amount of sense.

That’s the WHAT.  But who is the WHO?

 

There are some who take this to be the Apostle using a rhetorical technique.  One that I use quite often in my sermons.

“Now one of you might say…” - you imagine someone arguing with you, and you use that as a jumping off point to further explain your point.

But this is no rhetorical device in Romans 6.

We know this because Romans 6 includes another great narrative technique.  The callback.

Romans 6:1 calls back to Romans 3:8 - Why not do evil that good may come?  As some people slanderously charge us with saying.

Paul is in the fight of his life for the gospel of grace.

The Judaizers are furious with Paul, the one who used to be their champion against the Christians, having joined the other side.  And they were using all of their power, whether the power of the chief priests and arrest and execute Christians on the charge of blasphemy, or the power of their reasoning, their rhetoric, their arguments, to destroy any credibility of the preacher

This is the greatest way to undermine someone, isn’t it?

  • What he’s saying…just doesn’t make sense

  • Don’t believe a word Paul is saying, he’s lying to you

Best way to destroy someone’s ministry - make the preacher out to be a liar.

But Paul is having none of it.  With all the power of the Holy Spirit, with all the power of the truth, with all the power of his righteous fury, from his pulpit, Paul is striking out against their lies and is fighting for what is right.

This is what we are all called to do as Christians.  To fight tooth and nail for what is right against those who would undermine justice.  Against those who would undermine love and care.  Against those who would lead the church into heresy.

The Apostle draws a hard line in the sand.  I WILL NOT BUDGE AND LET YOU TURN THE GOSPEL OF GRACE INTO AN EXCUSE FOR SIN.  NEVER.  BY NO MEANS!

And what is Paul’s argument here?

His argument is two-fold: we cannot live in sin because we have died to sin, and, we cannot live in sin because we are called to live in righteousness.  This we will examine in our next two points.

We have died to sin.  Our second point.

Now that we have established the battlefield, we have established the stakes: THE VERY GOSPEL IS AT STAKE, let’s get into the epic cosmic battle itself.

We have to realize that the fighters we see are not the actual fighters.  A former Jewish Rabbi arguing against a couple of current Jewish Rabbis…even if the arguments lead to blows, this isn’t exactly an EPIC fight.  It’s certainly not a COSMIC BATTLE.

But Paul is not fighting for Paul.

The Judaizers aren’t fighting for the Jews.

 

Instead, this is a battle of God against Satan.

God is on the side of grace, and Satan is on the side of anything that could undermine God.  We have to realize that Satan has one motivation, he has one principle - TAKE DOWN GOD.  And he will fight dirty.  He will grasp at any straw and turn it into a spear.  Any chink in the armour he will exploit.

The situation is THAT DIRE.  It really is.

And that’s why God had to plan a daring rescue.  A daring rescue that end with His targets DEAD.

Doesn’t seem like a great plan.

 

But remember, our main character, our hero, is someone who is 50 steps ahead at all times.

It is VITAL to our faith that we know this.

 

This is the battle plan.  And on its surface…it seems like the worst plan.  Let’s examine it closer.

 

We see in this chapter that Paul is intent on us KNOWING.  He desperately wants us to UNDERSTAND.

For us to be able to GROW…we must first KNOW.  Doctrine before duty, learning before living.

 

So what exactly was this rescue all about?

 

In this chapter, we see that there are certain things we have know, and we have to know them well.  4 instances here of what we must know, all of them related to one another.

  • Verse 3 - Do you not KNOW that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

  • Then verse 6 - WE KNOW that our old self was crucified with Him

  • Verse 9 - WE KNOW that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again

  • Verse 15 - Do you not KNOW that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey

4 things that we must know.

We must know where we started.  And where did we start?

We started in a prison cell.  We started in a dungeon.

In verse 3 and 6, what we need to know, first of all, is the problem.  The problem so deep that DEATH is the solution.

We need to be identified with the DEATH OF OUR SAVIOUR to be set free.  We ourselves need to DIE, our old self needs to be CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.

What is so bad, what is so dark and evil and hopeless that DEATH is the answer?

Slavery.  This is a slavery into which Adam and Eve, our first father and first mother plunged all of us.

 

This we read of in Belgic Confession article 14.

We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy.  His will could conform to the will of God in every respect.

We started in a prison cell, but the human race did not.  Our first parents did not.

At the very beginning, we were created, we came into being in the castle of the king.  Given everything we could ever want.

The King of the Universe as our Father, joy beyond all measure, no pain, no sorrow, with every pleasure available.  Divine light, almost as far as the eye can see.

Everything the light touches is your kingdom.  Already now.  There’s just one spot.  The shadowy tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  You must never go there.

But what did we do?

But when man was in this high position, he did not appreciate it nor did he value his excellency.  He gave ear to the words of the devil and wilfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse.

What happened?  Out of the castle window we saw the shadowy place and abandoning reason, trading in wisdom for madness, we ran headlong into destruction.  And when we got there, we realized that the shadowy place was a horrific graveyard.  A dungeon.   A re-education camp where we were made to hate our Father, hate our king.  Every bit of love taken away, beaten out of us through suffering and pain and misery, replaced by hatred.  Hatred for God, hatred for our fellow prisoners.

In that graveyard-dungeon-re-education camp, we became dark and twisted, with almost nothing of our former selves left.

Since man became wicked and perverse, corrupt in all his ways, he has lost all his excellent gifts which he had once received from God.  He has nothing left but some small traces, which are sufficient to make man inexcusable.  For whatever light is in us has been changed into darkness.

What do you do with someone like that?

If it were you or me, we’d say, “Too far gone!  Give up!  Bomb the place, put these miserable creatures out their misery!”

BUT NOT GOD!

This is what a conqueror would do.  Ride in on a white horse, a knight in shining armour, and slay all his enemies with a glittering sword - all his enemies, even the ones who used to be family.  They’re now compromised.  Corrupted.  And they deserve to die.

But not God.  For He is MORE THAN A CONQUEROR.

Instead of a sword, His weapon was the cross.

This was a rescue plan where our Saviour died, and in His death, He also put us to death.

 

Verse 4 - Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

We who BELONG TO CHRIST have DIED WITH CHRIST.  You see, when we gave up on Him, when we joined the enemy, first freely, then in slavery…He never gave up on us.  He chose a people, a church, a bride, from these hateful rebels living in a place of hateful devils, and He declared - YOU BELONG TO ME.  And so…we are going to die together.

You see, our re-education was SO SUCCESSFUL, it became our nature.  And that nature had to die.  Our sins, our corrupted nature, have been put on Him and in His death, they have been destroyed.  In His death…we died.

Verse 6 further clarifies this point - We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

In our death, we were set free.  We were set free and became children of God once more.  Children of wrath became children of God once more.  Children of grace.

And one more piece of good news, the third thing we must know…verse 9 - We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him

We have been set free from the dungeon of sin, and the last thing we want to do is go back, right?  In some ways.  More on that in our third point shortly.

In our new nature, the last thing we want to do is go back.  We tremble at the thought of returning to our jailer.  Or torturer.

And here’s the amazing news.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him

As with Christ, so too with us!  Our old nature is crucified, our new nature comes to life.  Just as Christ was raised from the dead never to die again, our new nature, our spiritual nature has come to life, and it will never die again.  It died in the Garden.  We lost it.  We were trapped in the shadowy graveyard, we were DEAD IN OUR SINS.  BUT GOD!  But God raised us from the dead, just as He raised Christ.  Raised INCORRUPTIBLE.  Raised IMMORTAL.  We will not fall again like Adam did.  We will never return to the dungeon!

Instead, we will live in the enemy’s camp.  Our third point.

If you’re confused right now, I don’t blame you.

After the triumphant description of our freedom you heard that we are living in the enemy’s camp.  But…we were set free, never to return!  Now this is where we are living?

No, not at all.  The enemy in this case is not Satan.  This is the enemy of our old nature.  We are living now in GOD’S CAMP.

Still confused?  I don’t blame you.

We have been set free from sin and Satan, we are no longer slaves, Satan has been defeated, our old nature has been crucified…

And yet…somehow it survived.

This is the already-but-not-yet of the Christian life.  A concept we have explored a little together over the years.

Our old nature has been crucified, and yet it must continually be crucified again.

Our new nature has come to life, and yet it needs to be continually infused with new life.

This is a PROCESS.  This is what Lord’s Day 33 tells us.

True repentance, true conversion is the DYING of the old nature and the COMING TO LIFE of the new.

We have been set free, and our new nature loves God, but our old nature still loves sin.

And this the Apostle examines in verse 17 and 18 - But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

And that is why Paul uses the metaphor that we are now slaves of righteousness.

We used to be slaves of sin, now we are slaves of God.  And Paul loves to identify himself as a slave.  That’s how he began this sermon to the Romans:

Romans 1:1 - Paul, a servant or SLAVE of Christ Jesus

Because, just as we were re-educated in the doctrines of SIN, we have to be re-educated in the doctrines of GRACE.

Verse 19 - For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification.

As one minister put it: “I want to be as good a saint as I was a sinner!”  “I want to be as good a saint as I was a sinner!”

You see, the old man, what Paul calls our sinful nature…he speaks very loudly for a dead man.  The loudest corpse I’ve ever met.

Just as Satan will grasp at any straw and turn it into a spear, so too your old nature.  Your old nature speaks to you with the voice of Satan.  And it is so tempting.  Be sure that Satan knows you.  He knows each and every one of your weaknesses, and he will send in his sleeper agent, your old nature, and expertly push all your buttons.

Did God really say that you’ll never experience pleasure?

Well, no, we have freedom to experience the pleasure of creation, the pleasure of friendship, the pleasure of marriage…so many great pleasures.  We’re just not allowed to abuse our body with drugs.  We’re not allowed to have sex outside of marriage.  That will not be good for us.

It won’t be good for you?  God knows that these are the greatest pleasures of them all!  The feeling of forbidden pleasure is a hundred times that of God’s conventional gifts!

And we give in.

 

We must remind ourselves of the character of our TRUE ENEMY.  We must recognize what temptation really is, beloved.  We give in to these temptations because we do not remember what God has said about temptation.  We have to unmask temptation for what it is.

Temptation is not two equals sitting down for a friendly theological debate.  On the one side is you, and the other side is Satan.  “Did God really say?”  Just a question!  An opportunity to share the truth!  How nice of Satan for asking us to educate him!  REALLY?  HOW NAIIVE.

Temptation is not a discussion, temptation is not a debate between equals…temptation is Satan trying to wrap the chain around your wrist and drag you back to the graveyard.

What language does Scripture use for temptation?

Genesis 4 - temptation is like a wild beast

Ezekiel 14 - temptation is idols telling us to bow down

Proverbs 9 - temptation is a prostitute inviting you into her brothel

2 Timothy 2 - temptation is gangrene spreading throughout your body

We must join in God’s re-education camp, learn about our enemy, learn about his tactics, and train for war!

That’s the language that Paul uses here in verse 13 - Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourself to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

This word “instruments” - the CSB has it best when it translates this word as WEAPONS.

Paul is speaking the language of WAR.

Do not present your members, that is, your body parts, your mind, your heart, your hands, your feet…do not use your body as a weapon for the devil, to fight against God.

Instead, use your body as a weapon for God, to fight against the Devil!

One of the best ways to remember this is in what God commanded for the consecration of the priests in the Old Testament.

Turn with me, very briefly, to Exodus 29.

Exodus 29, starting at verse 19

You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and take part

of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right

hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar.  Then you shall take part of

the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons' garments 

with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons' garments with him.

Blood on the ear, on the thumb, on the big toe.

Keep your ears from hearing evil

Keep your hands from doing evil

Keep your feet from walking into evil

Your bodies are consecrated, holy to the Lord.

We are living in what our old nature would consider the enemy’s camp.  We are now SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.

There will be days when we love to do the will of God, when we wake up in the morning excited to do the work of God, to lay our gifts, our abilities, our very bodies on the altar as living-sacrifices.  Giving it 110% to care for the downtrodden no matter how unpleasant it may be, to seek out the truth not matter how long it takes, to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.  There are days like this.

But then there are days when the opposite is true.  We wake up in the morning, selfish and sinful, pursuing our own pleasures and treasures, giving the bare minimum to our service of God, giving up when it’s hard, stubbornly continuing in our way because its easier, acting unjustly, loving judgement, walking pridefully away from our God.  There are days like this too.

And on those days, we must remind ourselves that slaves don’t just obey when they feel like it.  Slaves obey on good days and on bad days, in and out of season.

This is the duty of a Christian.  And there are days when duty must play a stronger role than desire.

But it will not always be like this.  We will not always be caught in between.  We will not always live in the already-but-not-yet.  There is a future when we will live in the Father’s house.  Our final point. 

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification.

This slavery IS LEADING SOMEWHERE.

Slavery to sin only leads to more sin.

Slavery to righteousness leads to sanctification, more and more holiness, and then, verse 22 gives us the final destination

Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Two masters - one pays wages, the other gives gifts.

With Satan, you get what you deserve.  And I’m sorry to tell you…what you deserve, what all of us deserve…is DEATH.  Not just the death of our old nature.  Not just our physical death, as painful and terrifying as physical death can be…but ETERNAL DEATH.  An eternity away from light.  An eternity away from goodness.  An eternity away from joy.

But with God…with God you don’t what you deserve, PRAISE THE LORD!  With God…you get what CHRIST DESERVES.  You get GRACE.  God’s riches at Christ’s Expense.

With God, you have earned nothing.

  • You were a rabid insane corpse in a dungeon - and God was the one who rescued you.

  • Right now, you are a pretty bad servant, regularly attacking your master, undermining His good work in you and in your neighbour.  Sometimes you do serve and you are faithful, but that’s only by His power at work in you.

And despite this…what you receive is the free gift of ETERNAL LIFE.  And make no mistake..this gift is free - FOR YOU.  But it’s not cheap.  Free grace is salvation…cheap grace is blasphemy.  I’ll say that again.  Free grace is salvation - there’s nothing you can do to earn it, you don’t deserve it, it’s a GIFT - and cheap grace is blasphemy - spitting in the face of your Saviour.  HE PAID THE HIGHEST COST TO FREE YOU FROM THE SHADOWY GRAVEYARD.  It’s not cheap, it’s nothing something to gloss over or take for granted.

The Son became sin that sinners might become sons.

A sinner like you, a sinner like me…dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.  Given imperishable bodies, washed clean, dressed in royal robes, feasting at the heavenly banquet, gazing up at the face of our Saviour, taking in His beauty and majesty and glory…getting to join in it…an enemy welcomed to the table.

This is LIFE.  TRUE LIFE.  LIFE ABUNDANTLY.  No more will we be living a double life, our sinful nature fighting against our spiritual nature.  No more will we be tempted by sin.  No more will we give in to sin and be overwhelmed by guilt.  No more will we have to suffer the attacks of the Devil, for on that day, he will be locked in his own dungeon, receiving the punishment he has loved to give to others for so long.

Our former master will receive the wages of his sins and wickedness, and our new master will be our Father, our re-education and healing complete and we will perfectly obey forever, no longer out of duty, but out of love and eternal thankfulness, finally resting in the glorious peace accomplished by the most epic, the most exciting, cosmic, universal battle.

The war will be over, and we shall have peace.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


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