April 30, 2023

Romans: The Life Changing Power of the Gospel

Speaker: David Jordan Series: Journey Through the Bible Scripture: Romans 1:1– 16:27

Download the Romans Bible Journal Outline

Open your Bibles, if you would, to the book of Romans. If you're new to Grace Bible Church, you may have never heard a sermon like this before. I'm going to try and preach the whole thing. Not verse by verse, but an overview of the entire book. And it is, a special book for sure. Hopefully, you have a Bible journal. These have little kid pictures on the front, but on the inside, you'll find an outline of the book, some of the themes, chapter overview, significant chapters, that will help you follow along with where we're at in the sermon. So, if I'm referencing a specific chapter or verse, you'll know exactly where we're at in the flow of thought in Romans. The title of the message is the life changing power of the gospel. Some of the most influential men in church history have been converted to Christianity by reading the book of Romans.

In 386 AD, Aurelius Augustinus, Professor of Rhetoric at Milan, was struggling with the idea of converting to Christianity. Of course, this is better known as Augustine, in the garden of his friend, he heard a child nearby, saying or singing, “Take up and read, take up and read.” And so, he ran over to the bench nearby where he had a copy of Romans. And he read Romans 13:13-14. I have yet to hear another testimony with someone being saved by reading those verses, they're incredibly convictional. But he read that and immediately resolved to follow Christ. He later noted, “I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to, for instantly as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart, something like the light of full certainty, and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

About 1,100 years later, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, was meditating on the Scriptures day and night. They didn't have anything else to do. So, they meditated on the Scriptures. As he considered Romans 1:17, he finally understood being justified by faith and that that understanding was different from everything he had been taught up to that time. His eyes were opened as never before. He said, “Here, I felt that I was altogether born again. And had entered paradise itself through open gates.” The just living by faith was the passage that he read, and we'll look at that a little bit this morning. But it would forever change Martin Luther and the course of religious history. Literally, here you sit, because of his reading of Romans 1:17. Martin Luther, of course, sparked the Protestant Reformation and you sit this morning in a Protestant church. Even today, many have been saved upon hearing verses from Romans. Maybe in youth group, with all of the crazy things they did, you might have heard the Romans Road or been in an evangelism class and heard that.

Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 10:9 says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans is significant. It is powerful. It is unchallenged in its depth of theological training and understanding. It is sequential, for those of you who like outlines from one thought to another. You have eleven chapters of bliss, which lead into a twelfth chapter of a sanctified life. So, if you think of the first eleven chapters, it goes from sin to salvation. Chapters nine, ten, and eleven focus on Israel. Israel's past is chapter nine, present (at that time) chapter ten, and future, chapter 11. And it is some of the most theologically significant chapters in all of Scripture. And we would do well to embrace its theology and to understand it. I have yet to preach through Romans. But I hope to after this survey and after preaching through the rest of the books of the New Testament, in overview fashion. I will probably do Colossians and then I will probably do Romans. And I am very eager to preach the gospel to you.

Paul was also very eager to preach the gospel look in Romans 1:15. He was writing to Believers, and he said, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” So, the thing you need to know about Romans is that this is not an apologetic letter to unbelievers. It is a full theological treatise on the gospel to believers. Paul hadn't even met them yet. He wanted to visit them, but he had not yet visited them for which we are thankful. And so, he wrote them this letter, so that they would understand and have a depth of knowledge about God. So that they would join him, as you read through chapter one, so that they would join him in prayer. And also, he planned to go and evangelize all of Spain. And he wanted to stop in Rome on his way, garner their help, and then go tackle Spain. Paul had big plans. He had big plans.

And you might think, “Well, wow, how bad were they doing for him to write this letter?” Well, actually, they were doing very well, the church in Rome. They were probably those who were even scattered from persecution in Jerusalem, which ignited probably around Acts 7, with the stoning of Stephen. Where Saul at the time, whose name was later changed to Paul, was standing there holding the coats. And there was a great persecution that broke out. Historians think that, probably, that persecution is the one that spread Christians all the way to Rome, thousands of miles away. And here now is Paul wanting to visit them. God changes people, in mighty ways, you're going to see that in Romans.

So, the church in Rome was doing pretty good. And he wanted to explain to them Christian theology and Christian practice. Look in Romans 1:11-12, if you would with me, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.” Now, we sit here not reading letters from Rome to Paul, but from Paul to the Roman Church. But notice this, the humility that just flows out of Paul. Paul was healing people. Paul was the foremost writer of the New Testament, matched only in volume by Luke. And yet here he is, writing these people whom he had never met, but only heard about. And saying, “You know, I really, I want to be encouraged by you.” Keep that in mind as we go through the book of Romans. What is most encouraging to you? What is most encouraging to you? Well, I think, to most believers, they want to have a deeper understanding of God. They truly want to know God, not just to hear about him, but to know him personally. To have a relationship with him. To understand what he requires and to love serving him. Not just to come to church and sing and hear sermons and all the other things that we do, but to really look forward to the worship of God.

We want to have confidence that what we believe and how we live is truly pleasing to Father God. To the One who created all things. To the holiest Being in all of the universe. And Paul delivers. Oh, does he deliver. So, the outline of all of Romans, if you would, if you look in your outline there, your Bible Journal, you'll see there the chapter overview. From chapters 1 to 8 that’s sin to salvation. Chapters 9,10,11, as I said, is where Israel is set aside. And then chapters 12 to 16 is a call to live a sanctified life. So, if theology weren't practical, then Romans would be in error. But because theology is exactly how we are to live, we’re to live out our theology, Paul gives us some practical information.

Just so you know a little bit about the context of Romans. We do agree that Paul was the one who wrote it. Likely from Corinth to the believers in Rome. You can see that from Romans 1:7 and Romans 1:15. The names at the end of Romans were from Corinth. The city of Rome, to lock you back in, was not new, it was about 800 years old in history at this point. Okay, 800 years old. Not a new city, right? Twice as old as the US.

Paul was born about the same time as Jesus was. Okay. So, it's not like he was born after Jesus was raised from the dead and was a teenager when he started all this stuff. He was about the same age as our Lord. He was a Pharisee, Paul was, like his father before him. And we see that in Acts 23:6. Okay, so he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. That's not just some phrase he uses of himself. He was in bondage to this Jewish religious system, generations gone by. But no one spread the gospel more than the Apostle Paul. No one spread the gospel further. No one spread the gospel to more people groups then Paul. He went on three missionary journeys that you can read about through the book of Acts, and spread it all throughout the Mediterranean world. He would eventually be beaten mercilessly and put in prison for two years. I mean, if we get, you know, a bad word from a friend or our boss, we're kind of depressed for months, right? Well, Paul was in prison for two years. With no way out, he finally appeals to Caesar. And after almost dying on the way to Rome, he finally gets there, is in prison again, with no reason, and then is executed at the end of his life, after being in Rome. You need to understand this because Paul literally gave his life for the cause of the gospel. He literally died, so that you and I and others could hear the life transforming power of the gospel.

Look in Romans 1:16, this is regarded as the theme of all of Romans, it's a summary of it. [Romans 1:16-17] “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” This is the passage that struck Martin Luther. That caused him, through the graciousness of the Lord God, to reveal that truth to him and caused him to really ignite the world to live by faith and not by the seven sacraments of the then universal church.

But what strikes me about this gospel is that this letter isn't evangelistic. It's full of the gospel. And I've been told from time to time, “Hey, you didn't give a clear gospel presentation in your sermon today.” Like, “Well, we were talking about, you know, the establishment of the temple and Leviticus and the tent pegs and the rings and the curtain. And so, I didn't decide to make any of that about Jesus, but about the sacrifice unto God.” So, if you want to know my preference, there you go. I don't think you have to preach the gospel in every sermon. Jesus didn't preach the gospel, every single time he opened his mouth. He talked about life, he talked about the need for salvation. But the gospel is indeed important for believers. And I hope that there is a need for Jesus in every single sermon. But as you know, the Bible dictates what I preach. A friend of mine was actually fired from his church, because he continued to preach the gospel every single week. You're like, “Okay, that sounds bizarre.” Yeah, to me too. They said, “Well, we're already saved. Why do you keep talking to us like we're not saved? Why do you keep preaching the gospel as if we needed to be saved? Well, it's a great preference to preach the full gospel every single week.

It seemed Paul considered the gospel essential to the life of a believer. His whole message to them was about the gospel: about sin and salvation, and justification and sanctification. And all those words you guys use as you talk to each other throughout the week. See, the gospel though, is not just the power of God to save sinners, though it is. It's the power to live a righteous life by faith. It is so much more than just, “Yeah, I know the gospel.” But do you live it? Does it energize you and I as we live? Does it transform us and change us? Is it the center of what drives us to communicate Jesus to those at work and school and our neighbors? And not just, “Hey, I love the flowers over there. But do you know who made the flowers? Not just I love working. But do you know that it was God's design in the garden to establish work for mankind? And that's why when we work hard, there's a satisfaction that comes because God built it into humankind.” The gospel is all about life. And it is essential for living, and we need to hear about it just as much as the Roman church, that Paul was writing to, who was doing pretty good.

If you were writing Romans, though, how would you begin? I mean, the first five verses are a little bit out of our league, right? We're not apostles, called, set apart by the grace of God. And as Acts says, you know, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work I've called them to.” So, they're at a little bit different level. But if you were writing Romans, what would you say? How would you start it? Well, after giving this magnificent introduction, and his gushing love towards these people, he starts just the way you probably would, with the wrath of God. Look in verse 18, Romans 1:18-20. Remember, writing to believers, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

He just brings everybody in, and he says, “I gotcha. All of you. You're all guilty.” Remember writing to believers, doing well. The category we put ourselves in all the time. Right? No excuses. Everyone under heaven is guilty before God. Because see if there's no sin, there's no need for Jesus. There's just moralism. As intelligent Christians, we can say, “Ah, that's true. But those bad people out there. See, I'm not going to get the wrath of God. But those people, they are going to get fire and brimstone. They are going to get sulfur rained down on them. They are going to be lit on fire for eternity. But not me. All those godless people with their godless philosophies, their anger towards God, a God they don't even think exists.” How ironic is that? “Their drunkenness, their self-indulgence, their lying, their cheating, their misrepresentation, their homosexual lifestyles,” which Paul explicitly calls sin in chapter one. “They are in for it.”

So Paul, knowing mankind, in Romans 2:1 turns the tables, he knows that's what we're thinking. I mean, he is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the very words God wanted him to say, right? So in Romans 2:1, he says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.” So, if you've ever watched the news, and in your mind said, “They are going to get it.” This is you. If you have ever thought about all of the injustice, biblically defined, by the world happening to you, and “they're gonna get it,” this is for you. This is for me. Of course, we've all thought this way. “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” I thought we'd been set free from sin? You “practice the very same things.” Do you still believe you want to know what Romans has to say? That was so quiet. I know you're saying, “yes,” in your minds. He goes on to show that the [Jew] is guilty because they have broken the law of God just as the world has. The Jewish people, the upholders, the chosen ones, they have broken the law of God just as the world has broken. And if you've broken one law, you're guilty of what? All, right. Now we see the connection. They think they obey the law, but they do not. The law reveals sin, it does not save.

Romans 2:23, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” He's explicit. They actually think because they follow the law of circumcision, that they're all saved. But he says in Romans 2:29, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” Paul is trying to sift through the cultural understanding of salvation. He is trying to push aside the idea that it's just the world that is in need of Jesus and a more robust understanding. He is trying to push aside the idea that if you just follow these things, you'll be okay. So, he indicts all people, Jew and Gentile. And besides the fact that we're all guilty of sin, do we recognize how guilty we are? I mean, did he really need to go on and on about the slide of sin in chapter one? Did he really need to go on and on in chapter two about how we're all guilty under the law? Couldn't he just say we're sinners and move on? There's a point to that. If you're forgiven much you love much. He who is forgiven little loves little. Paul is trying to, from his own heart to ours, to allow us to live a life from our hearts out of love for God from our hearts. And not from all the rules that we are all so prone to want to measure ourselves with.

Do we think we're saved because we've prayed a prayer. There are no magic words. If the prayer is from the heart, then you are saved. All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But do we compare ourselves to the world? I mean, we are the people of God, not them. We are the saved. Because of the universal promises given to Abraham, we are his children, even the Jews thought. They are not. I mean, we go to church now, the world doesn't. We pray, they do not. We tithe, they do not. Paul is trying to bring it home a little bit. He was trying to get the Roman church to consider this salvation for themselves. And to truly have a right understanding of who they truly are before God. And that is a gift, friends. Knowing who we are before God is not something that will make us walk out of here with our tail between our legs. It is something that will allow us to walk out of here knowing the depth of the mercy and the love of God.

You see their faith needed to be in God, not themselves. Not all the good that they do, but in God. Is your faith in God and not all the good that you do? Not all the prayers that you make. Not all the things that you do, and the ways that you serve, and all the things that we should be doing. But is your faith in God? Do you live by faith? See, if he would just start by posing the question we'd all of course answer, “yes, but maybe not as good as I should. But I am.” And Paul loves us more than that. So, he wants to push through those superficial conversations. And he's not even done yet with pushing through. Look at Romans 3:9-20. And I want to read this whole section to you. It is one of the most significant sections on our distance between us and God and our need for God in all of Scripture. Romans 3:9, out of the ESV,

Romans 3:9–20 (ESV)
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? [notice, “we Jews”] No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

If we can still think, “Yeah, but I understood, I sought God, I turned to him, I chose him with my mouth. My feet were enabled to follow him by my own will and desire and I feared God on my own.” If we can think that, then we have simply missed the entire point of the book of Romans. Coming to God on our own is impossible. If you've turned to God in faith, then when you turned to God in faith, you are responding to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” To be justified before God means this: to be declared righteous. Perfect! That is, of course, beyond us. You're turning to God and my turning to God on our own falls short. Our longing for God on our own falls short. Our desires, all of them, fall short. Otherwise, we would be justified in our sight from our own efforts to come to Jesus Christ. But Scripture says we are justified by his grace as a gift through Jesus. That's Romans 3:24, that we just read. We are justified, that is, declared righteous before God, as a gift of his grace, not as a merit of your decisions. Turn to God, you must. Repent of your sins, you must. Believe in God, you must. Confess Christ with your mouth, you must. But all of these are a mere grace of the work of God in your life.

In chapter four then he cuts the legs out of the understanding of the Jews that Abraham was justified by his works of the law. But he says Abraham was justified through grace. He was justified by his faith. Chapter five says our justification brings us peace with God. Understanding justification is significant to understanding if you have peace with God. Do you want to know if you have peace with God? Because you need to figure it out while you're still breathing. Figuring it out later is too late. We must figure it out now. We must understand, are we justified 100% before God? 99% won't do. Hoping won't do. Knowing will do. So, he talks about how a person can be justified, can be acquitted. It's like a courtroom type word. Where if you go in a court and if the verdict is you're acquitted, that means you're set free. The charges brought against you have no condemnation on you. They have no consequence on you. It's like you never even did it. Even though everybody knows you did it. Think of famous court cases. We all know they did it but then they're somehow acquitted and set free. Is that just? Well, that is why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins, friend. So that sin would be fully punished. So that he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf so that we can know and understand the righteousness of God [2 Corinthians 5:21]. So, we can become the righteousness of God. It is an actual declaration that brings about a changed nature. And if you want to know if you have peace with God, the answer is: are you justified by faith? When you think, why am I saved? You must think of the work of Christ on the cross. When we have communion on the first of every month, you must think, “this is why I'm saved because his body was given for mine, his blood was shed for mine, this perfect willing sacrifice, and it wiped all my sins away. And not only that, but now I'm declared righteous: myself, my thoughts, my actions, they’re all considered as perfectly good as Jesus's thoughts and actions.” We are given the very righteousness of God.

Romans 5:1-2, turn there with me if you would. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The life of the Christian is that we are rejoicing, even when suffering. We are rejoicing because we have hope, not a hope that is like, “Oh, I hope I win the lottery.” But it's a sure knowledge, we are certain of what we do not see. And this faith brings within us this rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. That God is who he said he is, and he will be glorified through our lives.

You and I are not home with Jesus yet because God is not finished with us. He has determined through your life, right now, that you should bring glory to God as a light to all nations. You! In just how God has made you, in whatever situation you're in. If you don't know Jesus, I pray that you would repent and turn to Jesus Christ today. And if you do know him, God wants you to shine his glory to the world. That's your purpose. Our purpose is not to make just the most peaceful life we can. It's not just to enjoy life. That is a lie. Satan even tempted Jesus with that. Just bow down to me. Just worship me. And I'll give you everything you see. It's like Satan invented the television right there. Right? Just bow down to me. I'll give you everything you want. You can be happy for hours, just turn it on. Right? You can love spending time with your spouse sitting in silence for hours. Right? Nothing better than that. And we worship the entertainment culture. And as you know, I speak from experience there. Right? Seeing your name on the silver screen isn't all it's cracked up to be. Even if your mom takes pictures right in the middle of the theater. How embarrassing.

You say, “Yeah, okay. I've got peace with God. But what about that suffering part you mentioned?” Well look in Romans 5:3-6, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” That's you and me. Suffering is the path to hope. That sounds bizarre, doesn't it? But when you fall off your bike, and you scrape your knee and it's bleeding. And Mommy comes and puts a Band-Aid on, and you hop back on the bike. You're not so scared of falling off again. Why? You've been there, done that. I can endure this. That's what it means. Suffering produces real endurance. When the heats turned up, and you survive, you're like, “Whew, I'm still here, I made it. It's almost Friday.” I mean, we tell each other, “Wow, it's Wednesday, hope you can make it.” In your six-figure job, as you live in a beautiful county, and you just have to suffer through working and, you know, like, man.” No, we get the privilege of living for Jesus. We get the privilege of rejoicing in suffering. Like Paul when they're in the prison and they go out they're singing. In that stinky, rotten, filth-filled prison. They're rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name. They had great character. They had great hope. And they were not ashamed.

“Okay, so I have peace. I have suffering. That's an odd connection, but I'm following. Peace, suffering, hope, joy. But what about all the anxiety? What about all the unknowns out there? I can barely get through my day. It feels like I'm having heart murmurs.” Romans 8:28 is your go-to. Paul so lovingly shares this beautiful truth with us. And it is packed with truth. It is not just a, “You will get through your day and God will work it all out.” It is more marvelous than that. Romans 8:28-30. I will read this out of the Legacy Standard Bible:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers;
and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Now, you can take this however you want. It shows the marvelous outworking of God in all things in the world. It shows the divine election of God. But it shows this unequivocally: that you will stand before God, justified and glorified. I don't know what you're hoping to be encouraged by today. But it gives me great hope, that no matter what, I will one day stand before God justified and glorified. In this tiny little dot on the spectrum of eternity, that we call life on Earth, will be in the background. And I will forever enjoy, as all of you who know Jesus as your Lord and Savior will. We will enjoy being justified before God. That needs to outshine our vacations, that needs to outshine anything we would skip church for, that needs to outshine anything that is wonderful and glorious, that God has given us to enjoy in this world. That needs to be our hope.

It also shows that even while we are here, that all things work together for the good. Not for everybody but for those who love God. Notice the heart, the love of God, and are called according to his purpose. Christianity is a life of setting aside your own purpose and taking on the purpose of God for you. See, I think the big problem with this passage is that we focus so much on the short term, the roadblocks in life, that we can't see past them. We just see ourselves as Joseph in the pit, not Joseph second-in-command of all of Egypt. We just see ourselves as like Spurgeon, who's a little boy, a 16-year-old who's out in a snowstorm trying to get to his church. And it's closed. So, he turns into this Primitive Methodist church, whose pastor couldn't even be there that day. And the pastor is just saying, from Isaiah, “Look, look unto Christ.” One of the greatest preachers of all, got saved that day. Or like John Calvin, who was living in Strasbourg. And there was a war going on, maybe we forget that. They were actually fleeing for their lives to go from place to place. There was a war between Charles the Fifth of Spain and Francis the First of France, and the roads were blocked. He couldn't travel to where he wanted to go and his diverted path led him to Geneva. Where he met Will Farel who brought down the conviction and the thunder of God on John Calvin's life and said, “You should stay here lest God kill you on the way to your new place.” It was so convincing that John Calvin stayed in Geneva, wasn't part of this plan at all, and wrote some of the greatest Christian works ever penned that are not inspired.

Or like the Apostle Paul. We remember Paul was beaten but he seemed to be able to go wherever he wanted. Not really. Romans 15:22 explicitly says, Paul wanted to go to the people in Rome over and over again but was prevented. Do you ever feel like life is preventing you from what you really want to do? Well, that was Paul. That was Paul. He wanted to go see them but was often prevented. So, he was praying that God would allow him to get there. And guess what he did, while he waited, before he went to Rome? He wrote the book of Romans! Praise God he didn't get there when he wanted to. Otherwise, we might not have this immaculate, magnum opus on salvation. See, God uses what we might call roadblocks to get us where he actually wants us to be. To produce in us what he wants to produce. I mean, I'm with you. I want the level, smooth path. No potholes, no roadblocks, no turns, just straight. Just let me see where I'm going. I mean, could you ever in your life, imagine you would be where you are right now? Think back to where you were 10 years ago? Some of you that's maybe minus a couple years, but most of us, what were you doing 10 years ago, or 20 years ago? What was your understanding of God? What was your dedication to God like 20 years ago? God is so merciful. And when we read Romans 8:28, that we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. We see that week after week after week, and yet we doubt: “God, are you still there? God, are you still in control?” He's like, “Well, you know, I know you're only 50 years old. But you know, I guess the last 50 years, I've done pretty good.”

I love talking to the older folks in our church, the 70-plus crowd, wearing the crown of glory of gray. And sometimes even they need to be reminded. You just show up here. And you just let people see that after serving God for 50 years, and you're living 75-80 years and you still want to be in church on Sunday, as one of the most important things of your life. You know what kind of message that sends to all of us who are younger? Like, what's important. That is one of the most encouraging things to me about the body of Christ is seeing our older saints continue, to press on, with joy. We can't even figure out how we're going to get to tomorrow morning. And they've had thousands of tomorrow mornings. That too is a grace of God. So, God diverted Paul's path like Spurgeon, like Calvin, like Luther, who thought he was just studying what he already knew about right being righteous by faith. And he blesses other people. You see, our lives are not just for ourselves. They're to bless others. And God will use your circumstances, because he's created them, for his glory.

Well, as Paul goes on, he knows that the people reading this have been steeped in Jewish tradition for a long time. And so, he writes chapters 9 to 11 and explains Israel's rejection of the Messiah. Of how they try and live out their righteousness by the law and then how their future will be restored. And we might think, can they still be saved? Well, not if they try and pursue righteousness by the Law. That's explicitly stated in Romans 9:32. But can they be saved? Can anyone be saved? Of course, Romans 10:13, “everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is true for me, that is true for you, that is true for Muslims, it’s true for Jews. It's true for anyone who has a divergent understanding of the true God and his Word, anyone can be saved. All those people that you think are far beyond God. No one while they're breathing is beyond the reach of God's grace. And so, he lays that out in chapters 9, 10, and 11.

And the future of Israel, he spells out at the end of chapter 11. Romans 11:26, he talks about, “…in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’” That's not a description of heaven. That's a description of Christ's work on Earth. But, as Romans 11:25 states, Israel has been set aside for a time. How long? “Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” That's what we live in now. We're in the Age of the Gentiles, or if you prefer the Church Age. Okay? But the promises of God, according to verse 26, are still going to come to the Israelites. It is because of this, that we will see, that Paul gives an earnest plea to a holy life.

Look in chapter 12, after going through all of this with Israel. Remember how I told you he's this sequential outliner, that he wants to help us understand what we're here for? Notice that he says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore…” Right? He's just finished talking about God's plan for Gentiles and Jews. Therefore, brothers, “I appeal to you…by the mercies of God…” To do what? “…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” We don't just worship one day a week. I want your entire lives, to be an offering of spiritual worship to God. That's how we are now to live. That we now live to God. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

You say, “Yeah, so about that determining the will of God thing, right? How's that work?” Well, if you have the mind of Christ, you can do whatever you want. Because whatever you want, is what God wants for you. And if you want to do what God wants for you, then you can live freely. Not to sin so that grace may abound more. Paul says, “May it never be!” But it’s so that we may live a full and sanctified life. A famous sculptor was asked once how he could turn a lifeless block of stone into these magnificent horse creations, that look, the horses look so vibrant and full of life. And they asked him, “How can you take this piece of stone and turn it into something so amazing?” And he said, “Well, I just pick a large piece of marble, and I chisel away everything that doesn't look like a horse.” See, you and I don't fully understand how the Holy Spirit works in us. But his job is to chisel away everything in you and everything in me that doesn't resemble Christ. And we should be so thankful for it. And that's why God is really busy. You didn't get that? Okay.

As he goes on in chapter 12, and in following, he gives us just these amazing pictures of how to live. Because we represent a God so amazing, so wonderful. And you and I are called to represent him in this world. We are called to do things like Romans 12:16, to “Live in harmony with one another.” Not to be haughty, but to “associate with the lowly. Never to be wise in your own sight.” Let me repeat that, “Never to be wise in your own sight.” To say that “I am really good at something,” is to be wise in my own sight. To say that “I have a lot to offer other people in my understanding of Scripture,” is to be wise in our own sight. It is never more humbling than to quote Scripture out of context with other people who really understand that Scripture. And as a pastor, when I preach and talk for like 45 minutes to an hour, this does have an end, then there's so many verses that I quote, and so many names, that at times, I might say the wrong thing. It's on tape, or digital ones and zeros. Right? There's a digital copy of it. It's humbling to listen to yourself, talk for an hour. But that is what we're called to do. To speak life to other people, to speak the very words of God, not just to kind of get it right. But to speak the words of God.

As we continue to submit ourselves to Scripture here, and Paul has kind of got us where he wants us. Only 13 chapters later, does he bring up the whole government thing. Right, DC people? Right, your favorite, Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities….” “He can't be talking about mine.” “For there is no authority except from God….” Must have missed one, right? “And those that exist have been instituted by God.” Wait a minute, that's taking it too far. I thought we instituted them. Right? I thought we chose the person who's up there. I thought we put these people in place. Not just the main person but all government. I thought that was our obligation to vote and to change the course of history. “Those that exist have been instituted by God.” Don't you love Romans? I know you love Romans. I love Romans. And these are hard verses at times. But you need to not just understand this truth. You need to love this truth. Are you going to stand before God and look at him and say, “I hated Romans 13. It was awful. Your plan for this world was terrible.” Are we going to stand before God and say that? Are we going to stand before God and say, “Look, I had a better idea, God.” No. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Had to live that went out the last few years, haven't we? In our “free country.” See, the real deal is, is that no matter if you live in an “oppressed state,” if you live in a state with constant flux, with rebels overthrowing the governments – having incredible military power to rival that of their own government. Or whether you walk around town at 11 o'clock at night, and you feel 100% safe. God instituted the government. It’s like, “Oh, man, I'm going to have to go back and read the first 12 chapters again, because that's difficult.” Well just go back and read Romans, where it talks about suffering, and how you're so joyful in it, and I'm so joyful in it. And then go back and read Romans 13. And you will see we have a lot of growing to do, but Paul does this in a very pleasing way.

And then you say, “Oh, my faith is weak.” So then in chapter 14, he talks about welcoming those who have weak faith. Like “Okay, alright. I'm not supposed to be, I don't understand how all this works, I'm just going to sit on the side.” No, you're supposed to be part of the body of Christ too. And once we have understood these things, he kind of brings it all together in chapters 15 and 16. As we wrap it up here. All of these truths that we've had today can be lived out in a way that produces great joy. All of them. And I think that's what makes Roman so magnificent. We just think, “Romans is just full of this understanding of the gospel. And I've accepted that. So, I’ve got all of Romans.” Right? But we're supposed to live with great hope and great joy.

Look in Romans 15:13. He says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy….” Where does that hope come from? Directly from God. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” See, by the time you get to the end, you think, “Okay, I just got to put all these15 chapters together. I've got to get all my theology right and all my living right. And then somehow, Pastor Dave said, ‘I am going to be joyful and hopeful for all my life.’” No, it's even better than that. God says, “I am going to help you live with this hope. I am going to fill you with joy, I'm going to fill you with peace. I'm going to fill you with believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.” Do you feel like you're abounding in hope? Not just a little hopeful, but abounding in it, like you're just gushing with it. You look out at the world and you say, “the world's got nothing on me.” Look out at the world and you say, “nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.” You quote Romans, right? “Not powers, nor principalities, nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.” Is that how you're feeling? Well, that's what God calls you to pray for, because he says he's going to give it to you.

And then in chapter 16, he goes and says, to greet all these people. If you want to know who Paul hung out with, it's Romans 16, who ministered to him, who he ministered to. Look up those people. And he says this, to bring it all around back to the gospel in Romans 16:25-27, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ...” Every pastor loves that phrase, “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about what the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

I mean, that's a mouthful. But he wants you to abound in hope as you live out your faith in obedience to God. Romans is encouraging, it is inspiring. And the Christian life has been laid out before us today by Paul. The question is: Are we going to live by faith, this very day, and share the transforming power of the gospel with the world? Let's pray.

Father God, we want to know you. We want to love you more. We pray that you would help us, Lord God, to live by faith. To have our faith bring about obedience, Lord. But to trust in Christ, not only for our salvation, but for our living.

Lord, I pray that if there's anyone here that doesn't know you that they would trust in Jesus Christ completely for forgiveness. And that you would bring about a change and transformed life in them, by your grace.

Friends, let's just take a moment now and ask God to help us to live by faith.

Lord, we love you and we praise you and we look forward to how you're going to continue to work in our lives. Amen.