This is an exegetical sermon on Romans 6:15-18 titled, Master Jesus – Part I and explains the function of God’s grace in our lives and how we are to respond. This sermon was originally preached by Pastor Duane Smets Sunday, November 6th, 2006 in San Diego, CA. Audio unavailable.
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:: the resolved international ::
:: The Resolved :: Sunday, November 6, 2006
Duane Matthew Smets (elder)
“Master Jesus” – Part I
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness? 17 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, 18 and having become set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I. the motive of grace vs15
II. the way grace works vs16
III. thank God for grace vs17-18
a. a changed heart
b. true teaching
c. voluntary devotion
There is no way around the fact that life is difficult. particular times or moments in life can be more difficult than others but whether you are a rich newbie living the high life in the OC or you are just a minority living in one of America’s many hidden slums…there is no getting around it life is difficult.
We are studying the book of Romans here at the resolved and we took a break from it the past couple weeks because Romans is really intense. It hardly ever loosens up but is smack down, in your face, getting’ dirty and doing business. That can be tough and it can seem like we are hearing the same thing over and over again.
But that’s okay. It’s okay first because we are creatures of habit. We are dense and we really do need things ground into our heads over and over and over again until we get them. And then often times when we think we finally got something, we forget and end up making the same mistakes all over again.
it’s okay second because Paul doesn’t really repeat himself but builds and builds upon what he says and what that does for us is that we begin to see and understand these new layers to the gospel and insights into our human souls and the result is that as we peal off these layers we see Jesus Christ and who he really is and what it is really all about. And the brightness of his complete perfections pierces our heart with an adoring majesty that takes our breath away.
The title of my sermon today is “Master Jesus” and I’ll explain why in minute but first let’s read the text and pray.
God you are an uncomfortable subject to talk about. If it were just mere speculation then it is just opinion, just theory. But if we really talk about you what are we to do. Words are loaded things. Some words are so difficult to take. Difficult for us to hear and that makes it hard for us to understand what you have written. If this book is of any value it is because of what it says about Jesus and your goodness to us in Him. Teach us today once again what grace is; maybe we have never really understood it. Teach us about this life and what you have to do with it. Help. If you are God then have mercy on us. We want your glory. Amen.
I. the motive of grace vs15
Grace. What is it? It feels like one of those slippery words that are impossible to define. Like the word “atom.” What is it? Is it energy? Yeah it has to do with protons and electrons and particles and waves and all this other weird stuff. Or what about the word “music?” It’s sounds, it’s voices, it’s creativity, instruments…but the word music itself it a slippery word.
We could go to its technical definition, “undeserved favor.” But that doesn’t really help us. It sort of sounds like a2+b2=c2. All nice and tight and dry. If we apply it more specifically, “grace” in Romans is that word which describes how God gives us Christ and all Christ’s goodness despite how messed up we are as humans. Grace is God’s goodness in exchange for our badness. No matter how much or how many times or how long or how intense our sinfulness is…God gives us Christ as our savior.
So that is grace. I think it will take more than a whole lifetime to understand but that is a start and here in v.15 Paul intends to challenge a certain response that we very easily creeps into our minds when we consider God’s grace. Verse 15, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
The questions being raised here is a question of motive, of how grace affects us and what it does to our motives. If it goes like this, effects us in the way that Paul questions, then the response is “why not?” “Why not sin because God is gracious and we are not saved by law, by what we do?” If God really is that gracious then it really doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do because he forgives me. right?
When I was in high school, ten years ago now, I did a lot of drugs and by my senior year I was almost high or drunk at the end of every day. and during all that time I knew that the life I was living wasn’t good and that it made me miserable, but I figured I was fine, because I was a “Christian.” I had prayed a prayer, I had gone to church, and I figured that even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, I figured that God would forgive me because he is a loving God full of grace and that I knew that I would just deal with myself and God and all that later.
I didn’t know God and I didn’t know grace. this is the exact thing Paul is talking about…”are we to go ahead and just keep sinning with no care because we are saved by grace and not by the things we do?” He answered “NO!” “By no means!”
Why not? Because that is not a true understanding of grace. Grace is more than just saying we are not saved by what you do and how you live. That is just one side. The other side is that it changes our motives, our desires, who and what we serve. Let’s look at verse 16 and see the example Paul gives us of how grace works.
II. The way grace works vs16
Verse 15 corrects our foolishness of thinking that grace gives us a motive to sin. That because of God’s grace we a live a life with no regard for God as though grace were just like this VIP card or license that got us into all the strip clubs free of charge because God loves strippers and the people who go to see them. That’s grace being used as a motive for sin. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Let’s look at verse 16 and see how God designed grace to work.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness?”
I titled this sermon “Master Jesus” because in these verses Paul launches into this analogy for fighting sin and uniting with Christ (the subject of the chapter) and the analogy compares that to slavery. And his main point is that when we unite with Jesus, following after Him…that things change. It seems popular to think these days that Jesus is cool. Jesus is okay. A great teacher. A very likeable guy. But someone who would totally follow after…as though you were a slave? That is intense.
I hesitate even bringing it up because slavery is such a loaded word, especially here in America that has such a blotted history of racial discrimination and slavery. Almost immediately the worst connotations start coming into many people’s minds. And especially because I am a white guy standing here and all the imaginary paintings we see of Jesus are of this nice white dude with a beard. That’s why I put a picture of Kanye West dressed up as Jesus on the power point for my sermon. I’m about the black master Jesus. (My name is Duane. My dad’s best friend growing up was black and I think my parents wished I came out black or something, so they named me “Duane.” I am about the black Jesus.)
But hear me out. Slavery was intense in the first century. especially for the Jew, who had experienced slavery in Egypt and it was imprinted into their racial consciousness much like the black community’s slavery here in America is inseparable to every black person’s identity today. And so Paul goes after this word “slavery” to say something radical about Jesus and the gospel. He picks up one of the most explosive, fighting words in the language to say “this is what grace is…you think you know what it is about but you don’t get it. I am a Jew, Paul was a Jew of Jews, and I want to be a slave to the obedience of Christ.”
Jesus is the subject here. We don’t see his name in these particular verses, but it’s all about Jesus. He says “you are slaves of the one whom you obey…either of sin or of obedience.” Obedience has to do with the following of a person. And in Ephesians he makes it very clear that it is Christ Jesus. Listen to Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”
Being a Christian is about following after Christ, not about having it all together but following after one who does. Jesus came on the scene saying come follow me…listen to my words and teaching and obey me.
Now, I am not sure about you…but the word obedience rubs me really wrong for some reason. Maybe not everyone is like this but I hate being told what to do. Whether it was my parents growing up, security guards and cops for skateboarding, or my bosses at work…I hate being told what to do. Even now it is so difficult for me when someone tells me to do something. If I am asked it is a whole different story, then I find myself more apt to comply…why is this?
Let’s look a little bit closer at vs.16. Notice it says, “If you present yourselves as obedient slaves.” The word slave here in Greek is doulos, slaves or servants. And doulos’s in the 1st century, when these words were written, douloses were big business. It is estimated that 35-40% of all of Rome was slaves. And sometimes being a slave wasn’t so bad. If people had a hard run at things they could sell themselves into slavery to avoid a ruinous debt, giving up themselves for food and housing. If you did that it was a willing offering or presenting of yourself to a master. You would go to the master of your choosing and present yourself and offer to be their slave.
So I think that is what is going on with the “present yourself” thing here in Romans. And think for a minute about the question I asked earlier about why it is so hard to comply and be obedient when someone tells us to do something. undoubtedly some of it has to do with our natural rebelliousness but also isn’t it easier to do what someone says when that someone is a person that you respect and admire and trust and would do anything for no matter what they said?
Maybe that helps ease us into the idea of being an obedient slave but it gets thick because Paul makes a pretty big theological claim based on this analogy. He says, “You are slaves of whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death or of obedience which leads to righteousness.”
Notice the implied assumption that we are all slaves…either of sin or righteousness. The question is what kind of slave we are and based on what kind of motive. it is the same thing Jesus taught when he said whoever “sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34)” and when he said “no slave can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other (Luke 16:13).”
The way grace works here is that it looks to the future. This is New Testament ethics. It says look at where your destination is, where you are going by what you are seeking. How the little decisions will effect other decisions which will effect other decisions. And what is the motive? Righteousness and the peace and joy of an eternity of God unfolding his pleasure to us in a new heavens and new earth? Or is the motive seeking what we want for ourselves no matter whom or what the cost and we end up breeding death and decay and corruption and ultimately end up in hellish never ending heartache? What is the primary motive of your life? Where are you trying to get to?
New Testament ethics looks to the future and says, “don’t let sin master you because sin is not going to master you, it is not where you are headed.” It is the beautiful way that God’s sovereignty and our responsibility work together. God’s decision is ultimate, it must be for grace to be grace, and otherwise we are just earning our salvation. But our decisions are still real and when recognize that we will think and act differently when faced with decisions.
Listen to how John Piper puts this. First he quotes Philippians 2:12-13 “work out (not for) your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” So Piper quotes that and then he says, “Talk like that, say ‘I choose not to let sin reign in my body, because God is at work in me and will not let sin reign in my body.” Do you get it? if you consider yourself a Christian, and if you don’t that is cool…you’re welcome here, but if you do and heaven is your destination, then when you are faced with moral dilemmas and it is hard, you choose righteousness because you know where road leads if you don’t.
And even beyond that…it isn’t like we have to well up all this energy to make a right choice but instead cast ourselves upon the mercy of Christ. That is the beauty of it…we become slaves but we become slaves to a master who does all of our slave work for us. So it is not so much that we are even choosing righteousness itself but we are choosing Christ and his righteousness for us.
Now, I know that sounds kind of weird. And I don’t really have it all figured out. How does Jesus give himself to us and become someone we want to follow after and call master and get an immense joy out of obeying him? I struggle with that not only with the theology of it but the practical outworkings.
We talked a little about it toward the end of Romans 5 when we were working with the verse that said “by one man’s (Jesus) obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).” That hard, that someone the actions of someone who lived 2000 years ago are given to me as my actions. That sounds a little crazy. And then there is the whole problem of Jesus himself. I wrestle so much these days with how to relate to him. I don’t know how. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that I sure like him a lot and if all of this is really true then it is the most amazing thing ever and my heart is filled with so much thanks. And that is how Paul responds or relates to this kind of grace. With thanks. Let’s look at our final verses for today.
III. thank God for grace vs.17-18
Throughout this letter to the Romans there are points when Paul just realizes the greatness of all the things God was having him write about the gospel and Paul bursts out with thanks. “Thanks be to God.”
So how are we to thank God? often times I hear things like “God has done so much for me that me doing good things and living this righteous life is the least we can do to pay him back for all he has done for us.” The problem is, that doesn’t work. God’s gift of Jesus Christ and his grace in all of that is so great we could never pay him back. And trying to pay him back then demeans the value of his gift. So how are you supposed to thank God when you could never return the favor?
The answer is we simply dive deeper into grace. We delight in his gifts and enjoy them as our treasure. The way to thank God is to glory in his grace. And Paul points out three things here to bask in: a changed heart, a true teaching, and a voluntary devotion.
He says, once we were slaves of sin but now there is obedience from the heart. Our hearts are the seat of our person and we all come into this world having a problem with the being of God and in the gospel something happens when we embrace it a true love emerges in us for God and it compels us to live for him. So we thank God by remembering that change and cherishing our love for God with a deep joy that comes from our heart.
What about the true teaching? He says there is a “standard of teaching” we become committed to. What is this standard of teaching? We could spend a lot of time here but I’m not going to and we’ll just take the base interpretation. it could mean more but at the very least the “standard of teaching” has got to be the most basic elements of the gospel message of Jesus…that we are all jacked, Jesus isn’t, and he is what we need. That’s the standard, at least.
In Judaism the standard was very high, that was the scene Paul came from, but in the gospel the standard became much lower so that all the drunks, thieves, sluts, tattooed and pierced up junkies are welcome at his table. That’s the place that everyone comes into the gospel, that’s what we commit to, not some high form of religious of do’s and don’ts. We commit to giving up ourselves in exchange for Christ. So we thank God loving and savoring that gospel, by feeling the deep peace that we are accepted as Christ makes his home in our hearts and we pursue God with all our might.
And lastly, the voluntary devotion. See where he says we were, “set free from sin having become slaves of righteousness”? That’s where I get voluntary devotion. I say voluntary because of those two words “set free.” It means before we were unable in some way and now we have been made willing. A new desire and ability is kindled in us. And I say devotion because of this idea of being a free slave yet selling ourselves to righteousness is the extent of our spiritual devotion. We are set free from the idea that righteousness is a bad oppressive thing and what happens is it becomes a very desirable thing to us. It becomes the devotion of our life to “seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of Christ (Mt 6:33).” So we thank God by being a people of passionate resolve. We live with a determination of spirit that will not settle for having anything less than Christ.
Okay, let’s conclude this message. Here is a summary. There is a wrong motive from grace and there is a right motive from grace. The wrong motive is when we think grace is something we can use however we like so that we can do what we want and not have anyone say anything to us about it. The right motive is when grace so effects us so deeply that we sell ourselves to The Master and do everything we can to fight falsehood in because we want to go where our master is taking us. And what is left is a life of thanks…of thanking God for our changed heart, for the teaching of the gospel imparted to us, and for enabling us to with gladness to freely devote ourselves to Him.
A couple applications, how to apply this message to our lives. Don’t abuse grace but use gift of grace to war with your soul. let’s be about mission and live life with people in this city, whether that means going to parties or hanging out with your neighbor that you can’t stand…let’s give away the standard of the gospel. But don’t use grace as an excuse or reason to think it is okay to party it up and get wasted with no care about the gospel you are living and displaying. I’ve been guilty of that and I repent and I want to really be about mission and I hope you will follow me.
Second, we are all slaves; continually present yourself as a slave to Jesus, the great and wonderful master. This means don’t discriminate. It sounds like something that shouldn’t really need to be said. But oh how easy it is to only befriend people who are just like us. Racial justice and harmony is a direct result of the gospel, a direct result of Jesus being our master. We think we are fine on that because we are proper. But look around the room at our almost all white club. That’s not good. I’m glad to see that we have moved beyond being the indie punk rock church…so that tells me that we are starting to get it, that people who may not dress the same and like the same music can end up becoming some of your dearest friends. That’s good, I’m glad to see it, but we’ve got to take it even further. The gospel is about people from every nation, tribe, and tongue worshipping Jesus together.
Lastly, make good choices. We are big on the sovereignty of God and predestination and all that stuff here. We like it a lot and think those are great and wonderful truths. But we do believe that we make decisions and that our choices matter. So when you make decisions, even the little ones…think of your end, where you are headed and consider the consequences of your actions and make choices that will benefit you in the long run. Choose wisely and choose to follow Christ and to be with his people. Make decisions that are going to build your character and make you into a committed person. That means commit you to some things. Whether it is this church or what you do in life…find something to do and stick with it. It is so easy to slip into simply being a consumer where we just take and take and take from everything and never go anywhere and we don’t realize that giving ourselves away and using who we are in creative ways for other is much more satisfying.
That’s it. There are always tons of ways that you can apply a sermon; those are just a few of the things I thought of. And if none of those apply to you that’s fine but find something from this text that you can take and use to your benefit. To make sure it is all about the bible let’s read our verses one more time and then pray.