Romans Week 9 – Sermon Notes

By March 5, 2017Sermon Notes

Marriage Workshop

*What is the gap between the vision for your marriage and the reality of your marriage?

*Even if your marriage is good or great…the gap exists…because we can all grow.

*Continually questions is …how do you close that gap?

*Decrease or eliminate the vision altogether…lower your expectations.

*Maybe you believe that is your only way to avoid continued disappointment.

*I understand, but I don’t advise that…its like an injured shoulder that becomes frozen (I’ve had this on both sides)…you lower your expectation and that new low becomes unattainable so you set it lower.

*We are not offering any magic information, no special weekend that will fix or even improve your marriage merely by attending.

*But moments(workshops) can become movements…but only if we turn the moments into movements.

*The vision for the workshop is to train in community as a family…train with the people you will live life with.


-I have long believed that God has been challenging me, rebuking me, calling me to love Christy like he would have me to love her…I have had that vision for 33 years and have consistently fallen short…but I will not lower that vision, how can I?

-What right do I have to change God’s vision for my marriage? Even if I fall short…I must trust and train to close the gap between vision and reality…I cannot give his vision for us.

-The marriage workshop (like the leaders workshop) is not just a “one off event” that we believe with fix you.

*These are tied to what we believe and value about life in community as a church.

*We want to live Christ honoring, single story lives…home, marriage, community, work, and in our private internal world (where only God and us can see)

*So this, like the leadership workshop, is a chance to train together in community…and to find others who have the same vision as you do…so you can join together in further training.

*There is nothing more important to train for if you are married…than for the health and improvement of your marriage.

*Train is the right word…it implies effort, understanding, teamwork, discipline, endurance…training is never for itself…it is for something else…we train in order to obtain something we desire…

*We desire Christ honoring marriages…for his glory and for our joy.

*We are going to keep it simple…5 “applications”

*These five things if put to practice (and ideally with a battle buddy(s), or heart friend or two)…will help close the gap between vision and reality.

*The few hours will not fix a marriage and it is not marriage counseling…do not expect it.

*But it can provide insight and incentive to close the gap.

*My shoulder from last May to October…October till now: insight and training…closed the gap.

*Format: set your expectation:

-Talking piece: 15-20 minutes per session (intro and 5 sessions)

-Application: couples exercises (just the two of you)

-Illustration: 3 interviews with couples

*Childcare is limited: when the reserved space runs out you can still attend but you will need to provide your own childcare in your home.

*Sign up online, invite unchurched friends…this is for married couples, engaged couples can attend but the exercises will assume some history together. 

3.4.18   Romans 3:9-20

  1. Intro:

Paul Nelson, a follower of Christ and a Ph.D. Philosopher of Science tells the story of being at home over a holiday break during his first year of college. He was hanging out with some high school friends, sharing their first year college adventures.

After the usual roommate and professor anecdotes, the discussion wandered unexpectedly onto the topic of religion.

Paul was the only Christian in the room. When his turn came, he presented what seemed to him a strong case for Christianity, including vivid accounts of his spiritual experiences as a teenager, events as real to him as his own breath.

He then sat back confidently to field the inevitable questions. The first question stunned him. It came from “Melissa,” a young woman with whom he had acted in school plays and shared many classes. She was attractive, brilliant, and privileged. She looked at Paul calmly and, without a trace of skepticism or insincerity, asked, “But why do I need to be saved?” ”

Paul cannot remember his answer. He cannot remember if he even attempted an answer. In the two decades since that evening, however, Melissa’s question has often come back to him.

She was completely frank and completely mystified. Although Paul had described events of obvious significance to his own life, she could not understand why this made the least difference to her. Her response, was not the indifference of postmodernism, where it would not have mattered what Paul said, he had his truth, she had hers.

Rather, his story had quite simply been opaque from start to finish. Sin? Grace? Salvation? These words intersected with nothing Melissa recognized as real. The terms of his passionately rendered case for Christianity were empty. What Paul had said might well have been interesting, even compelling in its own way, but examined in the light of Melissa’s understanding of the world and her life, none of it mattered.

Melissa, in her own mind, didn’t need to be saved from anything, by anyone…she had no sense of danger and she had no sense of need.

What if Paul had said…”I just heard on the radio, a toxic cloud is drifting our way from an explosion at the chemical plant…many have already perished”…she would headed for the door and rushed in the opposite direction of the impending danger.

His statement would have conveyed, urgently, that he knew something that made a difference to everyone in the room…and all in the room would have done something…they would have acted on what he told them.

Today we come to the end of the first major section of Apostle Paul’s letter to Romans…1-3:20.

In the verses today we will see how Paul concludes his opening indictment of humanity…his grim description of our universal situation…”all are under sin…there is no one righteous, not even one.”

Read together:

Rom. 3:9   What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19   Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

God has made himself known to all people and they have all equally failed to respond appropriately to him…the result is that all human beings are locked up under sin’s power.

He does not say that all people are “sinners” though that is true…he says we are “under sin”…imprisoned under the power of sin.

“Under” means “under the authority of”…sin has command authority in our lives apart from Christ…this is true for all people.

If people were simply sinners, they might need a teacher to help them understand what is right to do and think.

But if we are under sin…we need a liberator.

This is not about different lifestyles, ignorance, different ways of thinking and believing…not about religion…it is about living in bondage or living in liberty.

Paul knows, that if people do not understand their bondage…the reality of it…the cause of it…they will not understand, or value, or embrace…liberty.

There was something that struck me in the video I showed two weeks ago of the pastor who struggled his whole life with same-sex attraction but did not act on that impulse but rather held to a biblical and God-honoring view of marriage as being a man and woman and that relationship as the only righteousness context for sex.

So we saw a single man, confessing that he will live celibate in order to honor God…and that he will not be defined by sexuality but by Christ.

What struck me was how he used the word “liberating.”…he said finds this reality “liberating”

When I think of his statements in the context of our highly sexualized world, a world in which liberty is defined as doing what you want with your body rather than doing what you ought with your body…the statement is even more profound.

He is liberated to be what God has made him to be…his own desires, his culture…has no leash on him…he has been liberated by Christ…free to be who God has designed him to be…a celibate, morally pure…Christ honoring man.

He has a liberty that others who are pursuing freedom apart from Christ can only dream of.

In WWII…this word liberty was used frequently…the liberation of France, the liberation of Holland, the liberation of the Philippines, the liberation of concentration camps.

If you were dying in the jungles on Bataan…or starving in a Nazi death camp…liberty was not just an idea…it was a life and death reality for you.

Paul is intent on showing sin as bondage because he intends to reveal the gospel as real liberty.

In this passage he does what Jewish rabbis called “pearl-stringing”…he ties together a series of Old Testament passages to reinforce his conclusion of verse 9…”All need to be liberated…none are free”

The string of Pearls are fastened together with the clasps of v.10 and v. 18…”There is no one righteous, not even one”…”No one will be declared righteous by their own efforts.”

Paul uses pearls from Psalms and from Isaiah.

He illustrated the universal human need by focusing on sins of speech first…referring to a different organs of speech in each of four lines: throats, tongues, lips, mouths.

Then he focuses on sins of violence against others before he concludes with the basic human disregard for God…this disregard is at the root of all human sin.

  1. Words:

-Paul strings pearls that match the sequence of organs that form words when we speak…throat, tongue, lips, mouth.

He paints a vivid picture of the way people use their words to harm others.

Does it seem odd that when he is demonstrating human bondage and a need for liberty…he would use words?

“Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

A less true statement has never been uttered…words have hurt everyone…words have killed, ruined, deceived.

But more importantly, for Paul’s argument…words reveal hearts.

We will talk more about this in a moment.

  1. Violence: Actions against others.

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Words reveal hearts that are far from God.

And of course, so do actions…Feet are swift to shed blood…they run in their lives towards harm for others.

Not that everyone is looking to murder someone…although many, many humans in the world are looking to do just that…many have done that…maybe not in your neighborhood but in many places in the world…murder abounds.

But in most human hearts the lack of fear of God leads to self-promotion and self-preservation…looking out for me and mine.

Their perspective on what is eternal, powerful, valuable is skewed…God is not present in their field of view (no fear of God before their eyes).

*They only see out there, what they are seeing in here.

And what is “in here” is the tyranny of sin.

So, his final verdict…is that we have no defense…we are all found “guilty” before God.

  1. No defense:

“…every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God”

After Paul makes his case…the defendant (the whole world) is left speechless and at the mercy of the Judge (God) who is about to pronounce judgment.

This letter is written to read like other letters are…in a single setting.

We stopped in verse 20 today…but if we keep going (and we will next week)…we see that he is not just trying to pile on guilt…he is moving to solution.

I’ll cheat and read a verse from next week…v. 21″But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known.”

Clear on the problem? Okay…now we can become clear on the solution.

Again…Paul does not merely say here all people commit sins…as if doing things contrary to God’s will is an occasional problem.

The situation is actually worse than that…he says that all are “under sin”

This is the language of domination or slavery.

Gal. 3:22 “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin (lit: held prisoner under sin).

The problem is not just that we are in the habit of committing sins…but that we are helpless prisoners of sin.

The conclusion regarding the problem dictates the conclusion regarding the solution.


-Problem: Unequal distribution of wealth.

-Solution: State control of economy…redistribution of wealth


-Problem: Illusion

-Solution: Enlightenment


-Problem: Ignorance

-Solution: Knowledge

But Slavery to sin is the prime problem…and we need liberty not just resources, information or enlightenment.

This is not just a battle of ideas or preferences…You believe Jesus, I believe something else…either are equally valid

This is about liberty or bondage…life or death.

We are unable to free ourselves from this slavery…so Jesus came not primarily to teach (he did that) but primarily to liberate.

Paul’s argument in this first major section:

  1. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (2: 13)
  1. “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” (3: 9)
  1. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (3: 20)

1 & 3 look like they contradict each other…but 3:9 is between them so the argument goes like this.

  1. The standard by which God judges all people is works.
  2. The power of sin makes it impossible for any person to do those works that will win God’s approval.
  3. So, no person, in FACT, can be justified by what he or she does.

*We are not saved by works, we are saved to works.

Eph. 2:8-10…we are not saved by works, we are saved to works.

All this doesn’t mean that non-Christians can’t do good things and Christians can’t do bad things…clearly we know that is untrue.

This is about liberty and slavery in regards to sin and righteousness.

Remember the three movements of the gospel? Like a single symphony with three distinct movements.

 Justification: Being declared “not guilty” by faith through grace: point in time

Sanctification: Becoming like Jesus over a lifetime by the collaboration of our will and the Spirit’s power: life long process

Glorification: The final, completed condition of the believer when this life is over: point out of time(eternity)

These three movements of a single symphony describe our liberty:

  1. We have been set free
  2. We are growing in the experience of that freedom
  3. We will be finally and fully set free

Look at these three movements from the perspective of a person who does not understand they need to be saved…they see no need.


Belief: I am okay or I can be okay by my own efforts…I don’t need a savior.

Action: (inaction) Does not turn to Christ in faith

Result: Remains guilty, separate from God.


Belief: I do not need God to be good, or to live in liberty…I got this.

Act: I may do some good, will do some bad (depending on the person)…but I will rely on me to do it.

Result: Remains on sin’s leash…can improve over time, but cannot live in the liberty of Christ apart from Christ.

You can drop a bad habit by your own will…stop smoking, stop cussing

You can pick up a good one…be polite, be generous

But people without Christ still live on sin’s leash…it may allow some room to run in a way that makes them think they are free…then “snap”…they come to limits of the leash and find out that freedom was illusion.

Usually happens when things are not going well…or when they are tested beyond the limits of their own ability (the length of the leash)

Transformation, freedom from sin is not possible without the gospel…their master may allow them to become this or that, improve a bit here or there…but in the end, your master is your master.

We will get to this in depth later so we won’t press the point…here’s what Paul says in chapter 6

Rom. 6:16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?


Belief: I do not have a need now…I will not have a need when I die.

Act: I will not believe the Gospel, I do not submit to Christ.

Result: I die separated from God

*The need for understanding our need is acute…

Let’s go back to where Paul used “Words” as indicative of slavery to sin.

Words seem like a silly thing to focus on…when there is so much evil out there, so many problems…why make a big deal about mere words?

Because words indicate what is inside of us.

He used throat, tongue, lips, mouth to describe the process of words…but words originate in the heart (the thinking, choosing, believing me)…the real “me”

James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. 3   When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7   All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9   With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. 

Paul is not just saying that in a world of human trafficking, war, disease, suffering…we should merely “watch our mouths”

He is saying that in a world of violence, where people are quick to shed blood…look at the words that come from the mouths of people and in those words you see the world’s root problem…slavery to sin.

Those words come from hearts that are not free…those words reveal a need for liberty.

Its easy to see the need for liberty from sin in the overtly wicked actions of the cruel and murderous…but to see the need for liberty in something as common as “words” is profound.

Again…not just so we will “say nice things” or “not say mean things”…but so we will see that the source of the words needs transformation.

*Early in my Christian life I agonized over my words…almost every night I thought of all I wish I had not said that day(which was a change from before I walked with Christ…where I said what I wanted and didn’t care.

I did care now…I tried to talk less, talk different, all with some success…I memorized verses about the tongue.

As James said…I have not perfected control of my tongue…but I have found that over the years my speech has changed in correlation with how my heart has changed.

I also know…I can revert to foolish speech quickly…because my heart remains partially changed…fully redeemed, partially sanctified.

We can filter the water after it comes from the well…likewise we can, depending on practice and self-control…get better at watching our mouths.

But we cannot by any human discipline or effort…change the water at its source…we cannot change our hearts even if learn somehow better discipline our tongues.

God alone changes hearts…he liberates us at the core and he causes us to love liberty more and more.

So the liberty is in the heart and moves to the mouth and other actions of our bodies.

*Our bodies, our day to day lives…the place where our hearts interface with the world of others.

 So the believer still sins…what is the difference then? 

He or she sins more than he or she wants to…not as much as he or she wants to…because his or her “wanter” (heart) has been and is being changed.

Gal. 5:1   It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

We are developing a real appetite for liberty…we are learning to love it…because we are learning to love the liberator.

*Pendulum of church history:

  1. Churches that hammered their people on sin…hoping that it would compel them to righteousness, to stop sinning and live better, Christ honoring lives.

-Battered, continually demoralized believers licked their wounds and tried harder to do better.

  1. Churches reacted against this hammering (and chased culture rather than changing it)…said we are not sinful, we are not in need of liberty…we are OK with God and he is OK with us…as we are (no liberty needed)

-Jesus was a moral teacher not a liberator.

-So they told people (and some churches still do) who were in desperate need of liberty…that they really didn’t need it.

-They told people who were choking on the leash of sin…that they were actually running free, they just didn’t realize it…you are okay.

But we are not okay with the gospel.

And the gospel starts with sin/bondage and then moves to liberty.

It is not a message of “you are okay, you just need to realize it”

It is “we are definitely not okay, but we can be.”

We need to understand our need for the gospel…all are under sin.

-Then we do not need to be continually hammered about our sin, we need to continually grasp a compelling vision of gospel liberty.

-When we sin we repent…but our focus is now on liberty.

*Consider the liberty that God has given you in Christ.

*When you are thinking through your own need change…the need to be, speak, think differently.

*When you consider the gap between God’s vision for your life and the current reality of your life.

*Get a vision for the fact that closing that gap between his vision and your current reality is chasing liberty.

*The training, the discipline, the effort…the help needed…not merely religious people becoming more devoted…but free people becoming more free.

*God’s vision for our lives is to be continually closing the gap between our current reality and the liberty he has won for us in Christ.

*It is for freedom, that Christ has set us free.

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