What I want to do in this class is teach you not only how to overcome the power of sin in your own life and establish a close and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, but how to help others do the same - in short, how to be a disciple-maker. I truly believe that's one of the two most needed yet neglected ministries in the Body of Christ; the other, of course, is teaching believers how to evangelize - meaning lead the unredeemed to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
There are several matters I need to clarify right at the "get-go" ...
Every week or so I will be sending you a new lesson. Please read it over very carefully. Then, get back to me via e-mail with any questions or concerns you might have. There is no specific time-table that we will be adhering to; instead, we'll stick with each lesson until you've "got it down" and all your questions and concerns have been addressed and answered. If you're teaching a class yourself, let me know how the class is going - and any concerns you might want me to help you resolve. I'm here to help you become more effective and better able to help others break the power of sin in their lives.
If you know of anyone else wanting to take this class, simply send his name along to me - and I'll fit him into the class at whatever level is most appropriate.
This a work in progress - and I consider you to be a fellow-worker. Please feel free to pass along any insights you believe will help this course be more effective.
There is one book I would like you to prayerfully consider purchasing right off the bat. It's a book I wrote several years ago - with a Forward by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. It's not expensive and will help you get a handle on what makes me tick and some of the concerns that have been at the heart of my life and ministry over the last fifty years. You can purchase it on line at Amazon. Simply press this link. Please do not be put-off by the technical language used in the book. I originally wrote it for college students, pastors, and theologians. Stick with it and you'll find it to be quite useful during the whole of this course. Don't worry about understanding all it lays out at first. Just read it through several times - not all at once, but over time.
A Vexing Difficulty
Over almost 50 years of ministry - twenty eight years as a senior pastor - the most vexing difficulties I faced always revolved around a single issue: helping believers overcome the power of sin in their lives.
Justification, meaning deliverance from the penalty of sin, is an event, not a process. It's a free gift - requiring little of a person except to thankfully embrace it - to gratefully lay hold of it. Sanctification, on the other hand, is much different. It's a process, not an event - an often painful process at that; and it calls for effort on our part.
"Just give me what I want - make it quick - make it easy - and make it painless."
What's especially distressing is the incontrovertible fact that many pastors today fail to emphasize the truth that sanctification requires discipline, hard work, and accountability. They promise short-cuts that inevitably lead to a bitter disappointment on the part of those whom they're counseling. And pastors who don't, run the risk of arousing the ire and indignation of their congregants - with the often heart-breaking result that they leave for another church that promises the same results but with little or no pain.
I don't care how addicted you might be or how addicted the persons you're counseling might be, victory is within reach. The only reason you or they haven't achieved victory is that nobody has ever taught you or them how sanctification works. I sincerely believe that God's End Days warriors will arise from a cesspool of addiction and general discontent - "he who has been forgiven much loves much" - a repeat of 1 Samuel 22:1 ...
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him ...
1 Samuel 22:1
Bear in mind: it was these very distressed, in debt, and disgruntled individuals who eventually became David's "Mighty Men of Valor" - and helped him defeat the Phillistines and establish his Kingdom. The same can be true of you and anyone you're teaching or counseling.
Let's begin with Romans 1:16-21 ...
The word “suppress” means to “hold down.” The truth about God and his hatred of unrighteousness is inherent - and to avoid facing it requires effort; it’s not easily done. The truth must be restrained forcefully. It’s not possible to simply walk around it - to ignore it.
The phrase “suppress the truth” doesn’t necessarily imply that the whole truth is being “suppressed.” In the case of a hypocrite (Romans 2:1 and 2:17), it’s his own sinfulness that’s being suppressed, not the sinfulness of mankind generally (cf. Calvin on the Ropes).
Have them bathe themselves in Bible Reading. Let God's Living Word cleanse and strengthen them. Not just ten minutes or so in the morning - scanning one or two chapters, but longer - reading through three or four chapters - both in the morning and in the evening. Find a good Bible reading program on line and get them started. Encourage them to use it every day. Remember, however, that it alone won't be sufficient. It's a start; but they must commit themselves to more time in the Word than most programs provide. .
For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints ... ~ Hebrews 4:12
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. ~ John 15:3
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to your word. ~ Psalm 119:9
Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word ... ~ Ephesians 5:25-26
Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you. ~ Psalm 119:11
Peace with God
Overcoming the power of sin - what the Bible calls “sanctification” - is the topic Paul takes up in detail beginning with Romans Chapter Six - and extending through to the end of Romans Chapter Eight. However, its basis is laid out for us in Chapter Five, the last chapter Paul gives over to the topic of justification, meaning deliverance from the penalty of sin. Consequently, we’ll begin our study there ...
Verse 1 sums up the meaning of justification - that it puts us at peace with God. What exactly that means is encapsulated in a single word Paul uses in verse 10: “reconciliation” ...
In short, when Paul tells us in verse 1 that justification puts us at peace with God, he means that ...
Think about it ...
A human judge might pardon us, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that he will become our friend. Not true, however, with God. Fellowship is why God created us. Therefore, when God redeems us - meaning when he pardons us - it’s for the purpose of restoring his fellowship with us. That’s what Paul means when he tells us that justification entails peace with God.
Verse 2 adds to the meaning of verse 1. It tells us that we’ve been put into a “state of grace” - which is what Paul means in the first clause of Romans 5:2 ...
It’s not simply that God has tendered us grace; it’s that we now live in grace - that grace, meaning God’s unmerited favor, is now our state of being. We have, in short, been taken from a state of wrath ...
... and translated into a state of grace - what Paul, quoting David in Romans 4:5-8, tells us is tantamount to the forgiveness of sins ...
The verb tenses here in Romans 5:2, though they don’t often draw our attention, provide further elaboration. Verb tenses in Greek add a dimension that’s missing in English. In English, verb tenses denote only timing - whether an event is occurring in the present, has occurred in the past, will occur in the future, has occurred in the past and is continuing to occur in the present, etc.
In Greek, however, verb tenses often denote not only timing, but a state of “consummation” as well - that an event has not only occurred, but that the result arising therefrom is in a final state - nothing more can be done to change it or take it any further.
And so it is with the Greek perfect tense. When an event is cast in the Greek perfect tense, the consequences arising therefrom continue indefinitely into the future; they’re final. And that’s what we have in Romans 5:2 ..
Both the verb “we have” (ἐσχήκαμεν) and the verb “we stand” (ἑστήκαμεν) are cast in the Greek perfect tense. The meaning of Romans 5:2 is, therefore, much better rendered ...
We are forever established in a state of grace - meaning we have forever escaped God’s condemnation and are no longer in danger of his wrath; we now live in that state - and draw our being from it.
Footnotes for Lesson 2
Let’s now probe a little more deeply. Romans 5:8-10 tells us plainly that God’s grace - meaning, once again, his unmerited favor - arises from his love of mankind; in short, it’s his love that prompted God the Father to send God the Son to the Cross - unfathomable mercy - incomprehensible - a divine mystery we’ll never get to the bottom of - that will stagger us throughout eternity ...
Look closely now at verse 8: God sent Christ to die for us while we were still his enemies - still covered in sin and corruption, repulsive and filled with hate, still shaking our fist at him in defiance. Infinite love bestowed on mankind at the very moment we were hanging him on the Cross.
The point here is this: what’s at issue in sanctification is not the love of God. If God loved us infinitely at the Cross, that settles the whole matter of his love.
No, now that we’ve been justified, it’s not that God will love us any less if we fail to press forward our sanctification ...
God can never love us any less or any more than he loves us now. That’s the truth Paul wants us to wrap our minds and hearts ever so tightly around before taking up the topic of sanctification. Why? Because we can’t press forward our sanctification unless we truly believe it - unless we’re able to walk in it.
Let me underscore that again: unless we’re convinced - truly convinced - that we’ve been delivered from all condemnation - meaning we’re forever safe from God’s wrath - and that God himself guarantees it - we’ll find ourselves unable to overcome the power of sin in our lives.
... and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God ...
Likewise, we have Jesus’ own admonition ...
... men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
In short, condemnation drives us into darkness - away from the presence of God; and because sanctification is all about abiding in God’s presence, there’s no way we can walk it out if condemnation is always nipping at our heels.
Once again, that’s ...
There is therefore now no condemnation to whose who are in Christ Jesus ...
In my own ministry, I’ve counseled hundreds of believers struggling to overcome besetting sins - a bad temper, gluttony, inordinate fears of various kinds, alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, outright adultery, bitterness, and a whole host of other specific sins. And always one of the primary obstacles impeding their sanctification has been condemnation. That’s because when they fail - and failure will occur - they flee back into darkness. Rather than facing God, confessing their sins, and believing that God doesn’t love them any less, they run from his presence and hide from him; and that always aborts sanctification.
The Comment Form below has been provided to enable us to "talk" to one another. I will try to answer quickly whatever questions you may have concerning this lesson. But more than that: your opinion, insights, and feedback are very important to me.