- Sermon Notes
How to Live Before God
When we left Paul last week he had just arrived in Rome. Sometime before this he said he wanted to go to Jerusalem to share the gospel with his brethren,
the Jews, and then after that, he wanted to go to Rome and eventually even to Spain.
He didn’t know, of course, that he would be taken to Rome as a prisoner, but he’s now in Rome and the Roman government even paid for his journey. Although
they didn’t listen to his advice which could have saved the ship and the ship’s cargo and then he ended up going through a raging storm for two weeks
and finally was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Other than that, he’s glad to be in Rome.
He has his own rented quarters and welcomes any and all who come to visit, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ
with all openness, unhindered.
He’s excited to be in Rome. The Lord told him he would stand before Caesar and I’m sure he thinks it will be an opportunity to share the gospel. He’s also
excited because two years earlier he had written a lengthy letter to the church in this city telling them how to live before God and giving great insight
into God’s love for them.
That letter he wrote two years earlier is the very book of Romans we are now studying. Can you imagine being in Rome and not only receiving this amazing
letter that is so powerful it will change the world and then having Paul himself arrive and personally teach it? Absolutely amazing.
This book speaks about the deepest issues of faith and our relationship to God and is one of the most powerful New Testament books we have. The entire
Protestant/evangelical modern church movement has its roots in this book and even in this first chapter.
Paul begins with his name, that he is a servant of Christ Jesus, set apart for the gospel of God. That’s his whole life, he’s filled with zeal and eager
to tell them about the gospel of God.
Why is that so important? Because that’s what God is about. It’s important to God. He promised this gospel long ago through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
speaking of God’s Son who was born a descendent of David, and declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.
These verses have to do with the biggest questions of life. Why are we here? Does it matter how we live? What happens when we die? Does it matter if we
are righteous or unrighteous? What does God think about the mess the world is in? How does God want us to live?
I. God Expects a Response
- Last week I read a report put out by the Minnesota Crime Commission that describes the condition of man better than almost anything I’ve read. I want
to read it again to set the stage.
- Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants, when he wants it – deny him these wants, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous, were he not so helpless. He has no morals, no knowledge, and no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free rein to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up to be a criminal, a thief, a killer, and a rapist.
- That is the condition we were born in. People are basically selfish and self-centered in their nature and the end result is ungodliness and unrighteousness.
- God, however, is completely righteous and holy and there is a great chasm between His righteousness and our unrighteousness. In fact, Paul says that
the wrath of God is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.
- That which is known about God is evident, for God has made it evident to all people.
Illus – Some lines from poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Earth is crammed with heaven; and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes; the rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”
- Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has
been made, so that they are without excuse.
- In other words, no one will be able to stand before God and say, “You didn’t make it plain enough for me, God, I didn’t understand that you actually existed and that’s why I lived the way I did. I’m not trying to throw you under the bus or anything, but I’m just saying that if you tried a little harder to make yourself known I wouldn’t have been such a sinner.”
- The famous preacher, Billy Sunday, once said, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.”
Illus – Excuses are used to avoid the truth. The dog ate my homework is a classic. Apparently, excuses aren’t limited to humans. Koko, the guerrilla, is famous for mastering more than 1000 signs of American Sign Language to communicate to researchers. One day they discovered a steel sink in her enclosure torn from its moorings, when confronted, she pointed to her pet kitten and signed, “Cat did it.”
B. If Jehovah is God, then serve Him
- Verse 21 – They knew God, but they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks.
- That’s really the problem right there. They knew God, they knew He created the heavens and the earth and that He gave them life, but they wouldn’t
honor Him as God, or give thanks.
Illus – I happened to catch a sports talk show host criticizing Seahawks’ Russell Wilson for speaking openly about his faith. He said, “If you’re doing the whole God thing and it’s working for you, that’s great for you, don’t get me wrong, I believe in God, I’m just not into the whole God thing.”
1 Kings 18:21, Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
- Nor were they thankful (verse 21). Simple gratitude towards God will change your entire perspective. But so will ingratitude. Selfish and self-centered
people most certainly have a lack of gratitude.
Psalm 50:23, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;”
Psalm 100:4, Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
C. Acknowledge God by how you live
- Verse 28 – They did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer and the result was disaster.
- If the Lord is God, then we should acknowledge Him, we should honor Him in how we live.
- But they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. (Verse 25) To live as though God does not exist brings tragic results and tragic consequences.
Illus – Not problem with sin is that it gets out of control and becomes the master. Sin is like having a pet tiger; so cute as a kitten, but growing more dangerous by the hour. Our daughter, Victoria, visited a farm in Mexico and started petting a bull, but the bull enjoyed it and wouldn’t let her stop.
- For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions. He was speaking of degrading sexual passions and used as an illustration women with women
and men with men sexually.
- Paul’s words have straightforward directness. These were not politically correct things to say in Paul’s day and they are most certainly not politically
correct things to say in our current day
- If there ever is a reason why Bibles will be banned or burned, it will be because of this chapter in the book of Romans.
Galatians 6:7-8, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
II. Live by Faith
- The answer is found in verses 16-17. Paul is eager to preach the gospel to those in Rome because he knows that God has an answer, God has made a way for us sinners to have a relationship to a holy God.
- Rome was the center of the known world at that time. Rome had great power, but it did not have power to change lives. The philosopher Seneca called
it, “The great cesspool of iniquity.” The writer Juvenal called it, “A filthy sewer into which the dregs of the Empire flood.”
A. The power of God saves those who believe
- Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, why should he be ashamed? It’s the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
- The power of God is the only way man can be saved, our part is simply believing and taking God at His word.
John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- What are we saved from? We are saved from the wrath of God that is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, They report to us how you turned to God to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
- We can relate to the people of Rome. They lived in the great “cesspool of iniquity” if you look at what was happening in Rome at that time and what’s happening today, you would see many similarities.
- We all grew up in this world and know what unrighteousness looks like and many of us have been there, done that. So how does a sinner become righteous?
- That’s the gospel, that’s the good news of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- So what does it mean to become the righteousness of God? It means that He has taken our sins and placed them on His Son so that the wrath of God does
not fall on us, it fell on Him.
- Not only that, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus was given to us so that the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you stand before
God is righteous. You will never be more righteous before God than the day you receive God’s righteousness.
- The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” There’s nothing you can add to
it, nothing you can do to deserve it or earn it.
Illus – That one verse is what brought about the modern Christian movement. Martin Luther, a Catholic at the time, couldn’t get this verse out of his mind. What did it mean?
In Rome there is a set of 28 white marble steps called the “Holy Stairs.” According to tradition these are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontus Pilate on which Jesus stepped on his way to be tried. They were brought to Rome in the fourth century and the Catholic Church granted indulgence for climbing the stairs on the knees. Martin Luther climbed one step at a time, finally with knees bleeding, the meaning of this verse came to him and he got up and ran down the stairs forever free from trying to earn his way to God.
- What does it mean to become righteous? Maybe it would be good to define both holiness and righteousness.
- In the class, What a Christian Believes, I asked people to define holiness. Invariably, they say it is the absence of sin. But we should be able to
define holiness without comparing it to sin. Holiness is the character of God and righteousness is when the holiness is lived out.
Galatians 5:22, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, etc.
- Righteousness is also a work in progress. By faith we become like Him, but there’s still much to change.
Romans 1:1-23 NASB
holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by
the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to
bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are
beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as tohow unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request,
if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you,
that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and
mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain
some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and
to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteousmanshall live byfaith.”
that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes,
His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even
though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of
birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.