We sing hundreds of different songs, all celebrating the grace of God. But the real question: is there a limit to the power of God's grace in our lives?
(Unfortunately, the introduction and the reading of the passage was not recorded, the sermon text is Romans 1:16-32)
**Not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**
HOLINESS: A WORK OF GRACE
PART ONE: RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH
If you were to ask, “What makes the Church of the Nazarene different from all the other denominations and churches out there?” The answer is our belief in the doctrine of holiness. What is holiness? Holiness is a work done through the power of God’s grace.
The Church is full of songs about God’s grace. “Amazing Grace,” “This is Amazing Grace,” and “All Because of God’s Amazing Grace,” those are just to name a few. It is celebrating that grace is God’s loving kindness directed to us. Grace is His gift of salvation given to us.
While we sing all those songs celebrating the power of God’s grace, there is a question that comes to mind. Is there a limit to what God’s grace can do in our lives? To help us answer this question, we are going to examine Paul’s writing in the book of Romans.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. (NRSV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
IN THE TEXT: The hold of sin
***[v18-23] THE POWER OF THE EXCHANGE***
God’s wrath is an unpopular topic in our culture. It is difficult for us to reconcile a God who loves us with a God who would send wrath. This is why so many try to distance the New Testament from the Old Testament. But wrath is not an emotional response from God, wrath is His personal reaction against sin. (William M. Greathouse) Sin is evil, kills, and destroys so God’s reaction against it is good.
Paul writes that “the wrath of God is… against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who… suppress the truth.” Humanity is the suppressors of truth. God made the entire universe, this wonderful planet we get to enjoy. All of creation points us to the existence of God, while knowing God exists does not save us, it does give us a reason to at least consider the idea. But what do we do? Try to come up with a story for our existence that excludes God. We are so desperate to do this, but our best scientific theory still comes to a place that forces us to recognize God’s existence. How can there be an explosion if there is nothing?
Make no mistake about it, man is willfully choosing the lie. Instead, we set up ourselves as the authority on success, happiness, and morality. When we do indulge in spiritual matters, we set up ourselves as gods or setup gods that we can control. These are the lies we create and choose to believe. They are lies we have traded for God’s truth, exchanging His power for His wrath.
***[v24-32] THE POWER OF DEPRAVITY***
In verses 24, 26, and 28 Paul repeats the same phrase, “God gave them up.” This is like a judge handing over someone convicted to the jailor. God hands us over to our own lies, knowing they will wreak havoc on our existence. Many of the sins we pursue tend to abuse our own physical bodies. Over 400,000 people die from smoking cigarettes each year, with 40,000 dying from secondhand smoke. (CDC website) Tobacco companies put a warning label right on the box, but we need something to take the edge of our stress, so we ignore the warning to our own detriment and destruction of others. Because this is a lie we want, we are trapped by the power of our degrading bodies.
We are willing to degrade our bodies because sin has also degraded our passions. Paul uses homosexuality as an example in verses 26 and 27. God created man and woman for one another, which blesses our race by multiplying it. But sin distorts this basic human desire. This applies also to cohabiting, which is being married without the commitment. Pornography is abandoning the passion for your spouse to find it in a fantasyland. NT Wright says, “The point is: Exchange your God for an idol, and you will exchange your genuine humanness for a distorted version, which will do you no good.” This the power of our degrading passions.
Our actions are saturated in sin because our passions flow from a desire to sin. And the great human mind is incapable of denying these passions and actions because it has been corrupted by sin. Paul does not say the mind is degraded, like passions and actions. Instead, in verse 28 Paul uses the word, “debased.” Debased is based on a Greek word that was used to describe useless metal that was good for nothing and should be discarded. God rejects our minds because sin has rendered them useless. We are held captive by the power of our debased minds.
It does not matter who we are, every single one of us is under the power of depravity. The results of depravity can be read in verse 29-30. While none of us practice every single form listed, we all pursue sin because it consumes our thoughts, passions, and bodies. Not only do we enjoy sin, but we also encourage and applaud others who follow us. Is it any wonder we under God’s wrath? Deep down, we know we are, but we get ourselves to sleep by comparing ourselves to other sinners.
FROM THE TEXT: The power of grace
Romans 1:18-32 makes us aware that sin’s effect on our lives is devastating. It is important that you and I are aware of them, and God’s displeasure with us pursing sin. There is a story about the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. He went to a church service and when he came home his wife, Grace, asked, “What was the sermon about?” The president answered, “Sin.” Grace was not satisfied with this answer, so she pressed, “What did the pastor say?” To which Coolidge responded, “He’s against it.” (William M. Greathouse, Beacon Bible Exposition) Too often in our sermons, even our discussion with others this is where our conversations about sin end.
We read this passage, completely forgetting that before verses 18-32, Paul writes verse 16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” Simply put, God’s grace is greater than sin’s hold on you and me. Yes, we are forgiven of the sins we committed through the blood of Jesus. However, the blood has more to save than that! Our God is mighty to save because His grace can help us overcome our degrading bodies by exchanging our degraded passions for His passions, and this transforms our debased minds to having a mind based on things from above. It makes no difference how far down the path of sin you have run, how deep sin is seated in your being, and how much of it courses through your veins, the grace of God can chase every bit of it out.
Our question for today is, “Is there a limit to what God’s grace can do in our lives?” As far as sin is concerned, it is no match for God’s grace. However, the only limit to the power of God’s grace in our lives is our faith. Verse 17 says, “For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” This faith is more than merely a mental acknowledgement, but a life altering decision. It is exchanging the lies of the world, the lies of the evil one, and the lies you tell yourself for the truth of God. God justifies and makes you holy through His grace, but you must have faith for His grace to do the sanctifying work.
BEYOND THE TEXT: The choice of our lives
Do you believe your ____________ is greater than the grace of God?
Season 1 Episode 31. "Puff the Magic Christian." The text for the message is Colossians 2:8-23. The question we are trying to answer is "How do I be a good Christian?"