romansHave you stopped to think about what others in our society think about you and me, the followers of Jesus? Would you say that we are viewed in a positive light by outsiders? Do your unbelieving friends see you as a person of faith, character, integrity, compassion, and humility? Or, do they see you and me as unyielding, negative, harsh, judgmental, hypocritical, and narrow-minded? If you broaden the horizon and ask the same questions of the Body of Christ at large in society how do you think we fair? Are we viewed positively or negatively by unbelievers? In the book, unChristian, the authors, David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons say,

Christianity has an image problem. If you’ve lived in America for very long, I doubt this surprises you. But it brings up important questions. Just what exactly do people think about Christians and Christianity? Why do these perceptions exist? Obviously, people believe their views are accurate (otherwise they would disavow them), but do their perceptions reflect reality? And why do people’s perceptions matter – should they matter – to Christ followers?

I have spent the last three years studying these questions through extensive interviews and research. You may be astonished to learn just how significant the dilemma is – and how the negative perceptions that your friends, neighbors, and colleagues have of Christianity will shape your life and our culture in the years to come. Our research shows that many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders. They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians. (David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons, unChristian, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2007)

Now, after hearing that some of you might respond by saying, “I don’t care what others think about me. I’m not seeking the approval of people.” Or someone else might say, “Of course unbelievers view us, the followers of Jesus, in a negative light, they are sinners who don’t care anything about the things of God any way.” Someone else might say, “Jesus told us that we would be hated by the world—so we must be doing something right.”

I’ve been thinking about how the world around us looks at us as followers of Jesus and I’ve been wondering why, when the topic of Jesus’ followers comes up, they roll their eyes and grit their teeth? Jesus did say, 18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18 NIV) But when I read the Gospels I see that those who hated Jesus were the religious folks, not the sinners. Let me show you what I am talking about.

In John 4, Jesus took time to speak to a woman, a Samaritan woman. In Jesus’ day you could exchange the word, “Samaritan,” for “despised.” The Samaritans were looked on, viewed, as the scum of the earth by Jews, but Jesus took the time to speak to her. She was not only a Samaritan, but she had been married five times and at the time Jesus spoke to her at the well, she was shacking up with a man who was not even her husband. If you read about their conversation you won’t find Jesus lecturing her about the atrocity of her failed marriages or her misguided faith, but He speaks to her about “living water” that will quench her thirst. In John 4:28-30 we read.

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30 NIV)

Let me give you just one more example. In Jesus’ day there was no occupation as hated as tax collectors. They were kind of like the IRS of our day. Folks hated “tax day,” but they hated it with an even greater passion that we do because the tax collectors of Jesus’ day would collect as much as they possibly could so they could pocket anything more than they were required to collect for the Roman government.

Jesus was heading into Jericho one day when the people lined the streets. There was a man, small in stature, who couldn’t see Jesus, so he climbed a tree to get a better view. The man’s name was Zacchaeus and he was a tax collector, a hated tax collector. We read in Luke 19:5,

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5 NIV)

When the people heard Jesus telling Zacchaeus that He wanted to stay at his house, they responded the same way that folks would respond if you went to stay at the house of a prostitute, drug dealer, or armed robber. Luke tells us,

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” (Luke 19:7 NIV)

Zacchaeus a “sinner?” You better believe he was! He was a thief to be more specific, but Jesus went to the home of the sinner and He ate with him. If you read the account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Zacchaeus you will not find any place where Jesus mentioned Zacchaeus’ stealing from the citizens of Jericho. Yet, in the presence of Jesus, while spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus stands up and tells Jesus that he wants to give half of his possessions to the poor. He didn’t stop there. Zacchaeus went on to say that if he had cheated anyone he would pay them back four times what he had taken. Luke tells us how Jesus responded to Zacchaeus statement.

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 NIV)

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” I told you that it was the religious folks of Jesus’ day who hated Him with such a vengeance. You can see from the two stories I have just shared with you that it was not sinners who hated Jesus, sinners loved Jesus.

It is this fact that disturbs me so when I think about where we are today. How did we get to this place? How have we drifted so far from the place Jesus held in the hearts of those who were plagued by sin? I’ve got an opinion.

Our society today sees us as the moralists of society. We are the great “Kill Joys” of society. We boycott Disney for their “Gay Pride Days.” We picket abortion clinics. We tell kids to be abstinent before marriage. We boycott Hollywood for the movies they make that we don’t like. We take our stand against stem cell research. We are against pornography. And the list goes on and on and on.

This past week I Googled, “What are Christians against?” and you wouldn’t believe all of the results that came back. One young man wrote on his website, “Christians are against everything…” Is this the way Jesus was viewed by those of His day? I don’t believe that for a minute. The Jewish religious leaders believed that Jesus was against them, but the people of Jesus’ day, the sinners of Jesus’ day, were attracted to Him.

The people of our day see us as the self-appointed moral policemen of society. They see us as always trying to find something to complain about, as trying to rob them of their fun, and trying to take away their rights to live however they want to live. I’m not convinced that God has called us to police the lives of unbelievers.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Mike has lost his mind. He’s abandoned the faith!” Let me explain to you what I am talking about from our study of Romans 6. The Apostle Paul’s highest aim in life was not morality, it was righteousness, being in right relationship with God. Paul came out of the most moral religion in the history of the world—Judaism. The Torah, the Oral Law, or Mishna, and the Talmud spoke precisely and clearly about all that was required of you and me to be in good standing with God, and yet Paul said that the Law was powerless to save us. Paul wrote,

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)

Living a holy life, a righteous life, is God’s will for you and me, but it is a by-product of transformation, not an order or dictate unto itself. A holy life can emerge only after transformation has taken place. This is why it is absurd for you and me to stand up in the public square and call the citizens of our city to holiness apart from their experience of conversion or transformation. Our making demands on unbelievers to live a holy life is like calling a caterpillar to fly. Caterpillars don’t fly do they? I don’t think so. If a caterpillar wants to fly then he must go through a metamorphosis. You know what happens don’t you?

The caterpillar slinks its way through life eating and going about its business until one day it forms a protective shield around itself when it has finished growing. Inside of that Pupa something marvelous, something mysterious, take place. When the Pupa has finished its work a butterfly emerges from the cocoon and it flies away. Radical transformation is part of the natural process for caterpillars, but the transformation of a human life is not natural at all. If transformation comes to you and me it is a supernatural event, something only God can do.

This leads me to our study for today. I want us to go back through Romans 6 and take a look at the “indicative” and “imperatives” of this chapter. Don’t let those two words throw you off. “Indicative” means what has already happened. It is what God has done in the lives of His people. “Imperative” is what is to be done. What we are to do as a result of what God has done.

The imperatives of living only come about after the indicatives of what God has done have taken place. Paul never calls us to live a holy life in and of our own power. In Romans 6 we find many indicatives, things that God has done on our behalf, but I will only show you a few. Read along with me. Let’s begin in Romans 6:2.

2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:2 NIV)

The indicative statement here is that “we died to sin.” As Jesus died upon the cross He took our sin with Him. Through what Jesus has done we have died to sin. Let’s turn next to Romans 6:6.

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—( Romans 6:6 NIV)

“Our old self was crucified with him…” How was this accomplished? How has our old nature, old self, been crucified? God has accomplished this on our behalf. Now turn to Romans 6:11 with me.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11 NIV)

“Dead to sin, but alive to God…” We have been made dead to sin, but alive to God by God’s grace and His work through Jesus our Savior.

13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13 NIV)

We “have been brought from death to life;” Once again, it is not hard to understand how we have been “brought.” If we are born sinners, dead in regards to our relationship with God, how can we move from death to live unless Someone else does the moving?

14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14 NIV)

“Sin shall not be your master…” The indicative term here is the word “master.” The Greek word for “master,” used here is “kurieuo” and it means, “to be lord of, to rule, have dominion over,” or “to exercise influence upon.” How do you escape the domination of sin’s rule over your life? God has given you the power. He has done it, now what will you do? He has acted on your behalf, now how will you live? Let’s move on. Take a look at Romans 6:18 with me.

18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18 NIV)

You have been set free from sin and been made slaves to righteousness. Your deliverance has come! You and I were enslaved to sin, unable to do anything about our condition, but God has come, like He came to the slaves in Egypt, and He has set us free from our slavery! Now, that’s something to get excited about! Let’s look at Romans 6:22.

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22 NIV)

This is the exclamation point on this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Paul is restating what he has already said in Romans 6:18. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God…” How has this taken place? Well, if you haven’t gotten it by now, you never will. God has broken the shackles that held us to sin and He has chained us to Himself. We have been freed from the torturous servitude of sin and made slaves of the gracious and merciful God!

These are the indicatives of Romans 6. Can you see what God has done on our behalf? Isn’t it remarkable! Isn’t it amazing what God has done! If you will think about how rebellious we have been, how self-centered we have been, how we have lived as enemies of God, and yet God has acted on our behalf while we were in this pitiful state.

Now that God has done these things, what will you do? Now that God has acted on our behalf what are we to do? Those are the most relevant questions that we can ask once we learn what God has done on our behalf. Let’s take a look at some of the imperatives that are found in Romans 6. Take a look at Romans 6:11 with me.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11 NIV)

The imperative verb used in this verse is translated, “count.” The Greek word is “logizomai” and it means, “to reckon, count,” or “to deliberate.” Used here in Romans 6:11 it instructs us to live as though we are dead to sin and alive to God. Take a look at Romans 6:12 with me.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12 NIV)

The imperative phrase is, “do not let sin reign.” Sin still has the capacity to rule our lives, but we are not to let sin rule us. Paul is not asking us to do something that is out of our reach. Paul isn’t asking a caterpillar to fly—he is instructing a butterfly to get up off the ground and spread its wings! Let’s look at Romans 6:13.

13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13 NIV)

The imperative verb is “offer.” The Greek word is “paristhemi” and it means, “to present, to provide, to bring, offer.” In 2 Timothy 4:17 the same word is used and it gives us the idea that it means, “to assist.” Read along with me.

17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:17 NIV)

We are not to assist the parts of our body to sin. We are not to offer the parts of our body to sin. There are ample opportunities to commit the parts of our bodies—our minds, eyes, ears, tongue, hands, and feet—to sin, but we are to say, “No way!” to these opportunities. How can we do this? We must remember what God has already done on our behalf. Last of all, turn with me to Romans 6:19.

19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:19 NIV)

Just as with the indicatives, this verse stands as an exclamation point to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6. It is a restatement of what he has already said in Romans 6:13. We are not to offer our bodies to sin, but we are offer them to God. Let me give you an example of what this looks like.

I can use my hands to do any number of things. My hands are just like your hands. They are neither holy or unholy, they are neither evil or saintly, in and of themselves. I can use my hands to hurt someone or I can use my hands to comfort someone. Because of what God has done on my behalf, my hands are not my hands any longer—they belong to Him. They are to be used to do God’s work. The same can be said of the other parts of my body. They use to be devoted to whatever I wanted to use them for, but now they are not mine, they have been claimed by God to be used for His glory.

The indicatives and imperatives that we find in Romans 6 are found throughout Paul’s writings. Let me show you one place where Paul states the indicative of what God has done to then urge the followers of Jesus to live out the imperatives that follow. Turn with me to Colossians 3:1-11. Read along with me.

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:1-11 NIV)

Do you see the indicative in Colossians 3:1 and again in 3:3? “You have been raised with Christ…” In verse 3 we read, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Now, can you see why it is absurd for us to call unbelievers to live a holy life? The indicative comes first. God must act in your life. God must act in my life. God must act in the life of any person before the imperatives of the Christian life begin to even be considered much less become visible in the daily living of our lives.

Enough about unbelievers and their perception of us. What about you and me? Are you aware of how God has acted in your life, on your behalf? Have you been considering these lessons from Romans and meditating on what God has done for you in giving the life of His Son Jesus on your behalf? We have not just been delivered from sin’s power, but we have been empowered to live life so that it brings glory and honor to God. Remarkable! It all begins with the indicative, with the work of God, with what God has done. J. Gresham Machen wrote,

We Christians are not interested merely in what God commands, but also in what God did; in a triumphant indicative; our salvation depends squarely upon history; the Bible contains that history, and unless that history is true the authority of the Bible is gone and we who have put our trust in the Bible are without hope. (J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ [New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1932], 385)

It is true. God’s Word is filled to overflowing with what God has done on behalf of His people. We need to study His Word, meditate upon His Word, and take to heart God’s mighty acts.

The key to life, to experiencing life as God intends, to find that elusive sense of purpose, happiness, and fulfillment that I hear so many talk about, is not found in something new or some technological or scientific breakthrough, but it is found in being “in Christ.” If you or I are “in Christ” then we are redefined as people. John MacArthur wrote,

For a Christian to live out the fullness of his new life in Christ, for him to truly live as the new creation that he is, he must know and believe that he is not what he used to be. He must understand that he is not a remodeled sinner but a remade saint. He must understand that, despite his present conflict with sin, he is no longer under sin’s tyranny and will never be again. The true understanding of his identity is essential. (John Mac Arthur)

God has acted, now what will you do? God has acted, now how will you live? Before you can ever even consider those questions you must first answer another question. Have you ever embraced what God has done on your behalf? Have you accepted Jesus as Lord of your life and asked Him into your heart as Lord and Savior? If not, then why would you wait another day? Won’t you invite Him in this very morning?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 29, 2013

What Are You Gonna Do About That?
Romans 6