My Life Group lesson for March 19, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Ken Jones (pastor of Worsham Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia), John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.
What habits have you been happy to leave behind in your life?
(Could be food, drink, drugs, could be learning to say no or say yes, could be too much time on your phone, could be arguing, could be gossiping, etc.)
A habit is something you can do without thinking--which is why most of us have so many of them. (Frank Clark, Register and Tribune Syndicate.)
Bad habits don’t always feel all that bad. We think: what’s the harm with a little instant gratification, mindless TV watching, or occasional web browsing? But, as we reflect back on the passing weeks, months, and years, all that wasted time starts to add up.
And when it affects our Christian walk, it really feels like a weight on our shoulders.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
"I’ve been married for over (10 years), and that’s been plenty of time for me to mess up. I mean really mess up. When I do make mistakes, I apologize and ask my wife to forgive me. Of course she forgives me, but there’s more to it than that. She wants more than an apology. She wants my assurance that I’m not going to repeat the stupid thing I did in the first place. She wants repentance."
*** The term repentance literally means to "turn around" or "to change direction." Repentance is that U-turn in life when you realize you’re headed in the wrong direction and you turn around to head back the way you should be going.
*** The Christian life is a life of repentance, but that repentance is so much more than just being sorry for what we’ve done! Seeking forgiveness is only the beginning. Christ has far more in store for us than a repeating cycle of failure and apology, followed by more failure and apology.
*** Christ gives us more than just forgiveness for sin. He gives us victory over sin. In Romans 6, Paul wrote about the difference.
CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST (ROMANS 6:4-7)
4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.
*** The right model.
--- We don't value baptism because it's necessary for salvation, but because it expresses the meaning of our salvation.
--- It symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus.
--- It also shows that we have died to our old sinful ways, and have been raised to new life in Christ.
--- Baptism shows that we have given our lives to Christ.
--- We place all our dreams, our hopes and our plans before Him, dying to ourselves.
--- It is an act of obedience to Jesus. (Our first one in many cases.)
*** The model of Christ's death.
--- Paul writes in verse 6 that our old self was crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.").
--- Paul added in verse 7: "Anyone who has died has been set free from sin."
--- Since your old self is dead, it no longer has power over you.
--- Human bodies are not in themselves sinful, but sin so dominated our fallen beings that our bodies belonged to sin.
--- When Paul wrote that such a person has been set free from sin, he literally wrote, "has been justified [or acquitted] from sin."
--- In other words, the wages of sin is death, but we have died with Christ; therefore, we are free from sin’s debt. Dead people don’t pay bills.
--- Christians can still choose to sin, but the believer is no longer a slave to sin.
--- As Christians, we cannot deny that we still struggle with temptation. However, sin is no longer has the same level of control over us that it once did.
--- Our new lives are no longer dominated by sin, but live empowered by the Holy Spirit.
*** Question - Verse 11 later says that disciples of Jesus are dead to sin. Why, then, do we still struggle with sin? Is it possible for a Christian to reach a state of sinless perfection in this life?
--- Knowing we’re dead to sin and living like it are two different things.
UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW (ROMANS 6:12-14)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
*** I can't help it, I was born this way.
--- In verses 12 and 13 Paul essentially tells us, "Quit choosing to sin."
--- We can't let any part of ourselves - our bodies, our minds, our hearts - desire things that aren't for God.
--- Before we were believers we couldn't help ourselves. We were sinners and didn't know anything else.
--- When we discuss youth crime in Memphis, one of the recurring themes is that the kids just don't know any better.
--- Now that we are alive in Christ our eyes are open to temptation and sin. We have the power to resist.
*** Grace under fire.
--- Verse 14 is a relief. We are not under the law, but under grace.
--- We can't boast about our works and we can't make ourselves self-righteous.
--- We are only saved by the grace of God. We look to Him for forgiveness when we fail.
--- However, this does not give us a license to sin.
--- Paul wrote these verses partly to correct false teaching that said it didn't matter if we sinned as long as we are spiritual.
--- It's that kind of stinking thinking that has us justifying sin to ourselves.
--- We might think, "Oh, it's my private sin, no one will know," or "God will forgive me, so it's OK."
--- In reality sin affects our relationship with God, so don't allow your body to be used against God.
--- You can overcome sin by presenting yourself to God.
--- You must recognize that you cannot live the Christian life in your own strength and power.
--- Ultimately we are to strive to be holy and be more like Jesus.
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
Have you ever been in a store with your children and they were particularly adamant about asking you for a new toy?
When you explain that you can't afford what they want, they reply, "It's OK, you can just charge it." Everything is free to them because they aren't in charge of the checkbook.
Too many Christians live their lives like our children treat our bank accounts: Everything's free so we can do anything we want.
"I can’t help it. This sin is just a habit in my life that will always be there."
"I know Jesus forgave me, but I can’t keep from sinning."
"I’m powerless to deal with this."
If you are a believer—a follower of Christ—those statements are false.
If those statements are true, then why do I still sin?
As Christians, we sin because we choose to sin. We fail to consider that Christ has given us a way out. He has fully empowered us to stand strong.
Through Christ, we have victory over sin. How will that be evident in your life this week? Consider taking one of these steps:
*** Confess. Give your sin to Christ—no matter how small you consider it. Acknowledge that Christ is your Lord and Master, and choose to live in victory in Him.
*** Remove. Evaluate your life for habits, routines, or relationships that pull you into sin. Create a plan for removing them or limiting their power over you.
*** Team up. Partner with another believer and support each other in saying "no" to sin and "yes" to Jesus. Make a practical plan to connect regularly and remind each other that sin is no longer the master; Jesus is.