I want to begin this morning with a test. Please answer the following questions.
1. A good description of a Christian is: "A sinner saved by grace." T or F
2. It's normal for a Christian to sin every day. T or F
3. A Christian who is abiding in Christ can sin and not know it. T or F
4. A bad thought is a sin. T or F
5. It's easier for a Christian who is abiding in Christ to sin than do right. T or F
6. We get closer to Christ through acts of righteousness. T or F
7. Sainthood is a position attained by few Christians. T or F
8. To be tempted is a sign of our sinfulness. T or F
9. How many sins have you committed today? ___
10. How many acts of righteousness have you done today? ____
For the past several weeks we have been looking at Romans 5:12 through 6:10, which teach the doctrine of the believers union with Jesus Christ.
This morning I want us to focus on Romans 6:11, which is literally the first word of exhortation in the epistle to the Romans. So far we have simply been told the truth about ourselves. Now Paul calls upon us to realize the truth he has been teaching us up to this point. The principle of identification with Jesus Christ is the foundation of the spiritual life.
Do you know what God wants from your life? He wants you to live a holy life.
1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
As we have seen in the past four weeks, we are holy, that is our position before God. And because we are holy, we are to live a holy life. Your practical holiness will become a reality through three basic steps. Those steps are: knowing, reckoning, and yielding. We have spent the last four weeks on the knowing, today we will look at the reckoning, and next week we will look at the yielding.
This word sums up the first 10 verses of Romans 6. The first thing we must do is to know something. What is it that we must know? The doctrine of our union with Jesus Christ, or to put it another way, our identity. Knowledge always precedes spiritual growth. If we are going to live holy, we must know our identity.
Romans 5:18 (NKJV) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
Adam is the representative of all mankind. When he sinned, we sinned, because we were in Adam. Our identity is found in Adam, and we are all sinners. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And all who put their trust in him have a new identity. We are now in Jesus Christ, the second Adam, and we are righteous . The believer is a new man with a new identity. We have died to sin and are no longer under its reign. That is the message of Romans 6:1-10. The first step to living a holy life is understanding or "knowing" your identity.
The second step is found in verse 11.
Romans 6:11 (NKJV) Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the principle of faith. The Greek word translated "reckon" here is logizomai. Paul uses it 19 times in Romans. It is a courtroom word used 11 times in Romans 4. It means for a judge to look at the evidence and in light of the evidence to regard something as true. It was a book keeping term used of writing down in the ledger the finances available. He would record as a fact in the ledger what he had counted in cash in the register. Reckon means: "to regard or consider something as true." It is in the present tense, which means: "keep on counting as true." We must keep on counting as true that we are dead to sin and alive to God.
We are dead to sin. What is the basis of believing that we are dead to sin? Is it our experience? No! Do you believe that Christ died on a cross for your sin? What is your basis for believing that? Did you see it? Did you experience it? No, you believe that because the Bible teaches it. This is also how we know that we died to sin - the Bible teaches it. Faith believes God in spite of circumstances.
Romans 4:18-21 (NKJV) who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
God made a promise to Abraham, he promised him children, he promised him that he would be the father of a great nation. Now, Abraham was 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 90, and she was barren. Look at Abraham's response to the promise:
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.
Notice that Abraham's faith was not weak. The Greek word used here for "consider" is katanoeo. It means: "to consider attentively, fix one's eyes or mind upon." The four oldest manuscripts of the New Testament do not have the negative. Abraham did consider his own body and Sarah's dead womb. The Old Testament verifies this:
Genesis 17:17 (NKJV) Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
Abraham faced the facts, he didn't deny them. He looked at the facts as they were, at their very worst, but having looked at them, he held on to the promise of God. He believed God in the face of all opposition. Faith does not close its eyes to reality. He knew physically that it was impossible for him and Sarah to bear children, but he believed God's promise.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Abraham believed God in spite of his circumstances, and so must we. God's Word says that we are dead to sin and alive to God.
Believer, your freedom from sin is a faith fact. I'm not talking about psychological games like saying to yourself, "Everyday in every way I'm getting better and better." I'm not talking about getting up every morning and saying, "You're really wonderful, you're really holy" - until finally you've got a case of self hypnosis, and you've convinced yourself of something that isn't so. I'm not talking about playing mind games. I'm talking about faith - believing God's Word. We must habitually reckon this to be true, no matter what our experience.
Why is how you think so important? It's important because you are a product of your thinking. Proverbs 23:7 says (NKJV), "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." A.W. Tozer said, "All conscience behavior is preceded by and arises out of our thoughts. What we think about when we are free to think about what we will -- that is what we are or will soon become."
The mind is the command center which determines our conduct based upon how we have been influenced to think. How you think is a critical issue, and from a Biblical perspective, it becomes very clear how important thinking is. We must learn to think biblically about ourselves.
We must understand our identity if we're going to make progress in practical holiness. We are: in Christ, righteous, saints, dead to sin, alive unto God. Sin is no longer our master, we are free from sin's dominion. Believe this! And walk by faith.
Let me share with you a parable that may help you grasp these truths.
Parable: Eagles and Turkeys
Once upon a time there were two eagles, a male and female eagle. They lived in a colony of a whole bunch of eagles. This male and female eagle had two beautiful big eggs and out hatched two little eaglets. When they hatched, the daddy flew around to all the other eagle eries and announced the arrival of the two eaglets, and all the eagles gathered at their erie, and they had a wonderful time rejoicing about the two little eaglets.
Mom and Dad, being fundamentalists, decided the next best thing they could do was to immediately go out and build another erie and have two more eaglets. Anything that caused that much rejoicing and recognition ought to be repeated as soon as possible. So Mom and dad went off to build another erie and they forgot the two little babies that they had.
Well, after abut two days of being left alone, these little eaglets had a conference together. They said, "If we stay here, we are going to die." They looked over the edge of the nest, it was about 50 feet to the ground. And they said, "If we jump out of the nest, we will probably die." They had never been taught to fly. Since staying was certain death, they decided to chance jumping out. So they crawled to the edge of the nest and jumped out. Fortunately, they both lived, and after recovering from the fall, they started out to look for food. As they headed out, they ran into a bunch of turkeys. These were nice turkeys, and the head gobbler sensed that these two little birds were hungry. The turkeys happened to be going out to look for acorns so they invited them to come along.
So the two little eaglets went along, and they got under a big oak tree, and the head gobbler said, "Hey, help yourself, look at all the acorns, they're everywhere." To an eaglet, he didn't know why, but an acorn didn't look too appealing. There is a law in life: when a person is really hungry, they'el eat anything. An eagle will eat acorns rather than starve to death, although an eagle wan't made for acorns.
The head gobbler said, "Where are you guys going to spend the night?" They didn't know, they had no family or friends to go home to. The head turkey said, "Why don't you guys come and live with us? We'el take you into our family. The head gobbler decided to help these little eaglets to become good turkeys. Another Law of life is: When anybody is accepted by a person, really accepted, they will seek to imitate that person to ensure acceptance. One of the greatest needs of the human heart is to be accepted. These little eagles felt accepted, and they wanted to learn to be good turkeys. So they said to the head gobbler, "Would you teach us to scratch?" So they had scratching lessons and over a period of months they became turkeyrized.
There's only one problem with this whole process; when you're a turkey, it's easy to be a turkey, but when you're an eagle, it's really hard to be a turkey. It seemed that no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn't get it. They kept telling themselves that acorns were the things that they ought to eat since they were turkeys. They kept saying to themselves, "We like acorns, acorns are good, we like acorns." And instead of screeching like an eagle, they'd cluck like a turkey. It was a poor cluck, and over and over they took voice lessons to get that cluck, out and they became turkeyrized as best as you can turkeyrize an eagle.
One day they were walking and came to an opening in the woods, and the little eagle looked up in the sky and saw some birds flying, and they looked like they were having such a good time. And he was just thinking to himself, "I'd like to be up there." The head turkey noticed him and said, "Watch out! All those things flying up there are buzzards. You don't want to go up there and be a buzzard do you?" The little eagle shook his head and thought, "I wonder what's wrong with me that I want to be up there flying?"
They got up one morning and went out to look for acorns. Turkeys love acorns, and these little eagles had tried so hard to be a turkey, and they failed over and over again. They'd scratch wrong and screech instead of clucking. They'd been reprimanded three or four time for not learning their lessons well. As they went out that morning, the one eagle sort of drugged behind. When you're discouraged, it's easy to drag behind. After a while, he stopped under a big tree, his head was down and he was feeling: "There's got to be more to life than this." Have you ever felt like that?
The little eagle didn't know it, but sitting up in the tree was an owl, and the owl looked down at him and said, "Who are you?" The eagle responded, "I'm a little turkey that's discouraged. I'm tired of life, I can't find satisfaction in life, it's too hard being a turkey.
Before I share with you the owl's response, let's look at our questions. The answer to the first 8 is: "false." They're all false! If you've got "true" for any one of those, you've been turkeyrized, and your life is always going to be frustrating and discouraging. What could be more frustrating than being a Christian who thinks of himself primarily as a self-centered sinner who's purpose in life is to produce God-centered holiness? "I'm a sinner who's purpose in life is to live holy." That's frustrating!
Question 2: It's normal for a Christian to sin every day.
That's false! Where do you find that in the Bible?
1 John 1:8 (NKJV) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
We will never come to the place where we are sinless. But is it normal for a Christian to sin every day?
1 John 2:1 (NKJV) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
All through the Bible we find exhortations to live holy, because God does not want us to sin. Sin isn't normal for a saint. This teaching comes from the turkeys who want to explain their lifestyle; because they sin everyday, they want you to think that it's normal to sin everyday.
Question 3: A Christian who is abiding in Christ can sin and not know it.
If you think you can sin and not know it, you will be wrestling with guilt all the time, because you're not sure if you sinned or not. An immature believer might sin and not understand it, because he doesn't understand the truth of the Word of God. But can a mature believer sin and not know it? It could be very frustrating trying to live the Christian life if you can sin and not know it. For example: Let's take a Basketball game. These guys are playing Basketball and one of them keeps calling "time" and asking the referee, "Did I foul?" And the referee says, "No, you didn't foul, keep playing." A few minutes later, he again calls time and asks, "Did I foul?" The referee says, "Listen, unless somebody blows the whistle, keep playing." Listen believer, if God indwells you and it is your desire to live for God, don't you think God will let you know when you sin? Some Christians are so sin conscience that they are afraid to do anything.
Question 4: A bad thought is a sin.
That's false! You cannot control your thoughts. You can't control the things that pop into your head. Now, if you choose to dwell on that thought and entertain it, that's different. Martin Luther said, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." You can't stop those thoughts from coming into you head, just don't dwell on them.
Question 8: To be tempted is a sign of our sinfulness.
That's false! Jesus was tempted. Was it a sign of His sinfulness? No, he was sinless. And you can connect this with number four, because you're not going to be tempted without a thought. A temptation is not a sin unless you yield to it.
Question 5: Its easier for a Christian who is abiding in Christ to sin than do right.
That's false! Now, for a Christian who is not abiding in Christ, this may be true; but for a believer who is abiding in Christ, this is not true. As a Christian abiding in Christ, when you sin - how do you feel? Terrible! When a Christian sins, they are miserable, so it is not easier to sin than to do right. When I sin, it makes me miserable. It is much easier to do right and not experience the guilt and shame.
Question 6: We get closer to Christ through acts of righteousness.
This is false! If you believe that, you are a legalist. You can't get any closer to Christ.
Closer to God I can never be, because in the person of Christ, I am as close as He.
I am in Christ; I can't get any close than that.
Question 7: Sainthood is attained by few Christians.
I hope that none of you got this one wrong. If you are a believer, you are a saint. Remember, how you think is going to determine how you live. When we think right, we will start to live right.
Look at questions 9 & 10.
Question 9. How many sins have you committed today?
Question 10. How many acts of righteousness have you done today?
How many of you had more in 9 than you did in 10? It's Sunday morning! You'd think that you would be doing good on a Sunday morning. Please listen, a Christian cannot sin without choosing to do so, and righteousness is everything I do except sin. If you had more in 9 then you did 10, and I asked you what the sins were that you committed, could you tell me? Most of you probably couldn't tell me what they were. You just figured that you'd done some.
My righteous acts today so far are: I got out of bed, drank a glass of barley green, prayed and went over my message, walked the dog, took a shower, got dressed, drove to church. Anything I do apart from sin is righteous, because I am righteous.
Do you know what that owl told the little eagle? He said, "You're not a turkey. You are an eagle, and if you'd be what you are, you would be fulfilled."
If you believe that it's normal for a Christian to sin every day, how are you going to live? It is not normal for a Christian to sin everyday. We are righteous, we are holy; and if we'd be what we are, we would be fulfilled.
Romans 6:11 (NKJV) Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You are to consider yourself dead to sin, because you are. Let me ask you a question, "Can you go ten minutes without sinning?" Sure, then how about 20, or an hour, or a day? You could if you consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God. We need to understand and believe what God says about us. Faith is believing what God says.
Look at question 1. A good description of a Christian is: "A sinner saved by grace." Is that a "good" description of a Christian? No! That is a very poor description of a Christian. I think there is only one time in the Word of God where a Christian is called a sinner.
James 5:19-20 (NKJV) Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
This is referring to the believer who has wandered from the truth. Other than this time, you will never find a Christian called "a sinner." The most common term used for Christians is "brethren." And the second most common term is "Saint." We are brothers in the family of God, and we are saints. A good description of a Christian would be: "A saint kept by grace." If you think of yourself as "a sinner saved by grace", what do you expect from yourself? Not much. But if you see yourself as a "saint," then you will seek to live up to who you are.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
This is who we are, this is our identity. We died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Now, because of who we are, this is what we are supposed to do:
Colossians 3:5-10 (NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Because we are holy, we are to live holy. We are saints, and we are to live like saints. Paul is telling these saints to be what they are - holy. If you'd be what you are (holy), you would be fulfilled instead of frustrated. The victorious Christian life begins with a recognition of who we are in Christ.
When you look at yourself, you will see your sinfulness. But when you look away from yourself unto Jesus Christ, you will see your new identity, your perfect righteousness, your glorious position with God in the heavenly places. This is why we are constantly told in the Scripture to set our mind on Christ, on things above.
The key to the victorious Christian life is occupation with Christ. Believer, we do not have to sin, we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are holy, so let's live holy. Be what you are!