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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:Living the Good Life (Part 2)
Text:LD 33 Romans 6:15-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2023-03-05
Added:2023-03-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Living the Good Life (Part 2)

Romans 6: 15-23

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, on February 8, a group of students met for chapel at the Hughes Auditorium on the campus of Asbury University (a Christian University in Wilmore, Kentucky). The students sang and prayed, but instead of leaving when chapel was over, they decided to stay and pray and sing a little longer. 

 

Before long, a two sentence message was sent out to the rest of the student body: There's worship happening in Hughes. You're welcome to join. That was the start of what has been called The Asbury Revival of 2023. Over the next two weeks, until February 23, thousands of people flocked to the campus to join in. Some estimates say that as many as 15,000 people per day came to Asbury to attend the revival. As many as 50,000 – 70,000 people attended in total.

 

Much has been written about the revival. Some covered the story favorably and highlighted the fact that these students recognized how much they needed God – and how much we need God’s grace and power to change us, to transform the direction of this generation.    

 

Others have been critical about the revival, pointing out that revivals like this are often staged events. There were charismatics present who were claiming they could heal people in Jesus’ name and cast demons. Some say it was all emotion – but no real content.       

 

My purpose for mentioning this tonight is not to render judgment on what happened in Asbury. I merely want to pick up on something that one of the speakers said at the revival. He said that while many students and individuals may have dedicated or re-dedicated their lives to Christ during that time, what was most important was what happens next -- after the revival. He reminded the students of the command that Jesus gave his own disciples: to follow me.  

 

The truth is, if we were to look back on this event, in 5 or 10 years from now, the question shouldn’t be: how many people dedicated their lives to Christ? No. it should be: How many lives were changed after the revival. How many truly followed Christ as a result?

 

Revival is only TRUE revival if those who dedicate their lives to Christ start living their lives for Christ. This is what Paul has been talking about here in Romans 6, and this is what Lord’s Day 33 is teaching us as well. Here we confess that true believers are daily converting to Christ.     

 

1. The Passage: We’re Slaves to Righteousness

First, let’s look at the passage we read tonight from Romans 6:15-23, we see that the Apostle Paul repeats almost exactly the same question he asked in the first verse. Verse 1: What shall we say? Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? And then vs. 15: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

 

Both are essentially the same question. But the answer Paul provides for each question is slightly nuanced. His answer in vs 2 is: By no means! We died to sin: how can we live in it any longer?

Last week Sunday night we discussed how Paul grounded his answer in the believer’s union with Christ, our identity in Christ.

 

If we truly have been saved, if we truly have been justified by grace, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then all that is true of Christ is true of me. The death Christ died, he died for me, so that now I might also be dead unto sin. And when Christ rose from the grave in victory over death and sin, I also rose with Christ, so that now I might live for Him and in Him forevermore!

 

In short, if you and I are united to Christ by faith, then it is unthinkable, it is impossible for us to want to, or to desire to just keep on sinning as if we never knew Christ, as if His suffering and death and resurrection meant nothing to us; as if we claim to be justified, but then we remain unchanged in the way we live.

 

Another way of saying this is that the inner reality of who we are as Christians, of our self-identity in Christ -- must now conform with, it must match-up with the outward reality of how we live our lives. We can’t claim to be in Christ, and under grace, and yet indulge freely in sin.

 

Now here in the second half of Romans 6, Paul’s is building on and supporting his initial answer by giving an illustration. Paul is an effective orator and communicator, and he knows the power of a good illustration. So, let’s see what he does. Look at verses 15-16: By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?      

 

This imagery or language of slavery is not something that Paul dreamt up. It was Jesus who said this first. In John 8:34 Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

Boys and girls, a slave in the Bible times was someone who was bought and owned by another person. Think of Joseph. Joseph was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. And he was sold as a slave by his own brothers. Genesis 39 tells us how Potiphar an Egyptian eventually bought Joseph. Joseph went on to live in Potiphar’s house as a servant and he actually thrived and prospered.      

 

But this meant that Joseph was no longer a free man but that Potiphar was his master. Joseph served his master. He obeyed his master. So now, when Jesus speaks of the one who sins as being a slave to sin, he’s merely pointing out a theological reality in our lives.

 

All human beings serve someone. No human being is truly free. We must serve someone. We are either a slave of sin or we are a slave of righteousness. There is no middle ground. There is no third option. We either obey the sinful lusts and desires of the flesh or we obey the will and voice of God who calls us to resist those sinful desires and to live our lives striving to serve God, as servants of Christ our new master.

 

And to help reinforce this, to remove any doubt or uncertainty, Paul states our new reality, our new identity very clearly in verse 18: You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. That’s the truth for anyone who is a new creation in Christ. And then flowing from that truth, comes the practical outworking and application of that new reality: we Christians are under new ownership; we’re under new management. And now the rules of living have changed!

 

 

2. A Real-Life Illustration

As a further illustration of what this means, of what this looks like, I want to share with you the testimony of a man named Becket Cook. I got the following information from an article written in the August 23, 2019 edition of Gospel Coalition magazine. Here’s the opening paragraph. Ten years before the article was written, Becket Cook was a gay man in Hollywood who had achieved great success as a set designer in the fashion industry.

 

He worked with stars and supermodels, from Natalie Portman to Claudia Schiffer, traveling the world to design photo shoots for the likes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He attended award shows and parties at the homes of Paris Hilton and Prince. He spent summers swimming in Drew Barrymore’s pool. 

 

A decade later, Cook has moved on from that life—and he doesn’t miss it. What changed for Cook? He met Jesus.

 

The article goes on to say how Cook was sitting with friends at a local coffee shop in LA, and he started talking with a group of young people sitting at a nearby table. They had their Bibles opened in front of them (and that was something that really caught his attention. After talking with them, they invited hm to visit the church. He took them up on their offer and attended that next Sunday.

 

Six months early he was starting to have questions about the meaning of life, and he said he often felt so empty. But God was never a part of the answer because that was off the table. He was gay after all. But it was during that church service when the minister preached the Gospel, that Cook was confronted with the truth and the claims of the Gospel. And it was at that moment that God’s grace moved in his heart, and he committed his heart and life to the Lord.

 

What’s interesting is that right after this – after he was saved -- is when the intense discipleship started. The pastor met with him, others from the church came alongside him and recommended books and sermons. He started listening to sermons by Tim Keller and John Stott and Dick Lucas

And when he would read his Bible or hear a sermon, he said he’d often end up in tears – saying: O my, this is true! I can’t believe I know God and I know the meaning of life finally!

 

But now, here is where I want to go with this. This is what I want you to see and hear. The person who interviewed him for this article asked him this question: There are conversations today about whether one can be a “gay Christian.” Is there a way to reconcile following Jesus with having a gay identity?

 

And I must say, on a personal note, that I didn’t want to read the answer. I was almost certain what the response would be. Becket Cook is probably going to say that he is a gay man who is now converted to Christ, and that he is able to follow and serve and obey Jesus as a gay man just as faithfully as anyone who’s not gay or lesbian. That is the prevailing notion among many in the church today. Being gay and being a Christian are not in contradiction to each other.

 

But that is NOT the answer he gave. Again, here’s the question: Is there a way to reconcile following Jesus with having a gay identity? Here’s what he said in reply:

 

They are irreconcilable. It’s strange to me to see these attempts. I had such a clean break from it, and it was entirely God’s grace upon me to see that it was necessary. Would you call yourself a greedy Christian? Would you call yourself a tax-collector Christian? It seems strange to identify yourself with sin...Defining yourself as a “gay Christian,” even if you are celibate and not active in a homosexual relationship, is wildly misleading.

 

And it’s almost like you’re stewing in your old sin, hanging onto your old self in a weird way. It’s not helpful to have that moniker over you and to continually identify as such. Why would you identify with your old self that has been crucified with Christ? So, I flee from that term as far as I can. It’s not who I am at all. If people ask me how I identify, I’m just like, “I don’t identify by my sexuality. I’m a follower of Christ who has a lot of struggles, including same-sex attraction.”

 

His answer echoes the same argument of the Apostle. Are you united with Christ in his death and resurrection? If he your new Identity? Is Christ your new master? If so, you’re going to make a clear and decisive break with your old identity, with your old self, with your old master!

 

And notice something else that he says here. Bring saved by grace, and being discipled, and being converted to follow after Christ – it doesn’t make us sinless. It doesn’t mean that we no longer sin or ever entertain thoughts of sin. Notice what he said: I’m a follower of Christ who has a lot of struggles, including same-sex attraction

 

He’s not saying, “I’m still gay”. No. He’s saying, “Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus, I’m not gay anymore. But I still have to cope with, and struggle against sexual temptations.” It means he has identified those thoughts for what they are – as sinful thoughts that must be resisted, thoughts are antithetical to His new identity in Christ, thoughts that must put to death.   

 

3. Some Final thoughts:

I ask you: is that any different than the rest of us? His struggles are same sex attraction. But what are your struggles? What are your areas of weakness, where you fall prey to sinful thoughts and desires. Do you entertain sinful thoughts and desires about members of the opposite sex – of wandering eyes, of lustful glances, of scanning a woman over from head to toe?

 

That sin is no less scandalous and grievous to God and to your neighbor than the sin of homosexuality. And it’s the same way with covetousness and discontentment -- of not being satisfied or content with what God has given us, or feeling bitter about the trials he has placed before us. We too may struggle with these sinful thoughts and desires.

 

But the point is – we are struggling, and we are struggling not just for the sake of saying we that we are struggle and then finally to give in. But we are struggling for the sake of gaining the victory; we are struggling for the sake of striving to serve Jesus and follow closer after Jesus. We are striving in good conscience after what A 90 says: What is the rising-to-life of the new self? The rising to life of the self that identifies with Christ? It is whole-hearted joy in God through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work.

 

That wholehearted joy in God through Christ is the gratitude that should be welling up within our hearts and souls anytime, every time we take a humble and honest look at ourselves – and see ourselves as the undeserving objects of God’s amazing and miraculous mercy and grace.

 

That gratitude wells up with in us, like a wellspring, like a fountain gushing forth, and what does it produce, what does it gush forth? It produces a genuine and sincere love to live for God, and to die to my sinful self. To live according to God’s perfect will, and not my own; and to find my delight, my satisfaction, my fulfillment in life in doing the things that give God the glory, that please God, that can serve my neighbor, that makes less of me and more of God.

 

That’s what true conversion looks like. It’s a genuine sorrow for sin, and a hating of sin, accompanied by a genuine spirit of Christlike humility, where we are not contentious, or proud, or defensive, or argumentative – but just broken in spirit and contrite in heart and seeking to do nothing more than feeling from sin and who we used to be, and fleeing to Christ, finding our identity, our life, our joy in Christ.

 

Going back once more to that article on Becker Cook – toward the end – he said this: “It was such a relief to be in this relationship with Christ. It didn’t feel costly, because I was so full of joy. But it did cost me some friends, some really deep, lifelong relationships…that was painful, but at the time I was so euphoric I didn’t care…The gain is like Paul said: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). 

 

Beloved, this article came as such a huge encouragement because it reminds me – as I hope it reminds you – that the grace of God is real. And conversion is real. It also shows us how absurd the law is about conversion therapy for gays. It’s such a farse, a misnomer because we as a church do not convert anyone. We cannot convert anyone. That’s not within the scope of our capabilities.

 

All we can do is preach the Gospel and teach what the Bible says – and if God is pleased to use the Gospel to save someone from their sins and to convert their life then there’s nothing that I can do to prevent that, there’s no enforcement of the conversation therapy ban that’s going to stop that. It’s God’s doing – and no one can resistible the irresistible grace of God’s and the inner working of His Holy Spirit.

 

And now, going back to the Asbury Revival. How will that be remembered? What will be the outcome, the long-lasting ramifications of that revival? Will it be remembered for how many attended? For how many committed themselves to Christ? Or will it be remembered for how many lives were truly converted to Christ, how many people stopped dead in their tracks, and turned from their lives of sin, and then went in the other direction – to follow after Christ.

 

See, that’s the most obvious marker of true revival – and the truth is, it not only applies to revival in Asbury. It applies to revival in my life and in your life? We need to experience true revival just as much as anyone else. So, let’s look for that good fruit in our lives, let’s pray for that wholehearted joy in God through Christ, and let’s strive to love God and delight in living according to the will of God each and every day. Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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