Gaining the Victory - Part 1

Scripture: Romans 3:10-12, Romans 6:, Romans 7:
Many Christians do not have victory in their religious life. They struggle with weakness but do nothing about it. What can a person do to be strong in their Christian life? The Apostle Paul had a similar experience. What happened to him? The book of Romans describes Paul's spiritual journey.
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In general, I believe we're more aware of our spiritual needs than we are able to satisfy them. Most people know where their individual weakness lies. But the problem, friends, is knowing how to reach out and obtain help when we recognize our tremendous spiritual weakness and need. Now there are many people who simply ignore those needs. They are even ashamed to admit to themselves that they're not right with God, and that something is lacking. These people somehow hope that maybe it will go away if they just ignore it, but it just doesn't happen that way. You do not lose spiritual weakness by ignoring it. We have to take some positive action in gaining a deep spiritual, Christian life. I hope this study will be extremely practical for you as we study the problem of the discouraged, defeated Christian.

In searching where we might begin today, the experience of Paul came to my mind. I think there are thousands of Christians who are very much like Saul of Tarsus. That young man was brought up in the church. In fact, I suppose he had been a church member as long as he could remember. Some of the greatest men some of the wisest men in the Roman empire, had been the teachers of Saul, and from those very earliest years he had been instructed in all the details of his legalistic religion. Nobody could explain better about Judaism than this man, Saul. He boasted of it many, many times. In fact, in Acts 22:3 he said, "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day." And then going on to Philippians 3:5, 6 we read further, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." Why, he says, "I'm a perfect Jew; I've known these things from the cradle; I understand all the details of religious requirement and exactions of my religion." Yet my friends, I tell you today that Paul was not a happy, satisfied man. He was not a peaceful man at all. There was something missing and he knew it, although he didn't understand what it was. He was groping, he was searching for something that he didn't have. I'm sure the lack was clearly felt as he stood by holding the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death.

As Paul looked upon the shining face of this Christian martyr he realized that Stephen had something that he did not have. There was something vitally missing in his own life, and he could see it shining out of the face of this dedicated Christian. It must have bothered Saul a great deal as he left that place of execution. But later, the unrest of this man was completely settled as he traveled the road to Damascus and made that tremendous, dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ. Heaven seemed to open up and shine down on him. This legalistic Pharisee was transformed into a triumphant Christian that day, as the peace of God came into his life.

Now friends, I want us to study the counsel of Paul in our broadcast today. I want us to find out the secret of this happy life which became his through Christ Jesus. We want to learn what counsel Paul might have for us, and how our own life can be transformed into this kind of experience. It's not a short story. It's the account of a long struggle.

The book of Romans gives us the story pretty well. That's the biography of Paul's religious experience. I imagine the first step was when he started seeing sin as it really was, when he began to see transgression with all of it's ugliness and it's terrible consequences. Let's read Romans 3:10-12. Paul is speaking: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And then verse 23: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Now Paul had never admitted this before. As a self-righteous Pharisee, he would never see himself at all as a transgressor and a sinner. But now he is so ashamed of himself and he says everybody has gone astray. There's not one righteous, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Friends, when he saw himself in that light, Saul began to abhor his own goodness and his own righteousness. He realized that he was a lost and a condemned person, and he saw sin as lawlessness which had condemned him to death. He also began to see sin as a defilement. Isaiah spoke further and said, "... though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Paul realized that he needed to be cleansed, that he needed to be washed. He was dirty, he was filthy, he was defiled by his sins.

And then, apparently, Paul could see that sin was a ruling power that had made a slave out of him, because in Romans 6:14 he says: "For sin shall not have dominion over you." It did have dominion in his life. He knew it. He wanted to be free of that bondage, and so the great struggle began in the life of Paul. He began to see what he should do and what he ought to be, but friends, he had no power to do it. He was helpless. In the face of good desires and good intentions, he said "the things I want to do I can't possibly make myself do."

Let's read it in Romans 7 and verse 18 and onward. "... for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Now listen, you see how Paul was bound? You see, my friends, how enslaved he was to his sin? He said, "I can't break away. I want to do it. I hate these things that would defile me, and bind me to sin, but I can't break, I can't get away, I can't escape from it." He said, "There's a law of sin operating in my life, in my body, in my mind. And it binds me like steel." But then, suddenly, as Paul mourned over his captivity to sin; as he talked about the cruel nature of sin, there burst into his mind the one means of deliverance. God revealed it to him. And so in triumph he utters that last sentence: "I thank God through Jesus Christ there is escape." Yes, there is, my friend, only One hope for us. That's to get out of this mess through the grace of our Lord.

Now how does Christ free men from sin? How does Jesus break those bonds and cut us free from the awful thralldom of sin? Please notice that the law demands payment of debt, doesn't it? Let's imagine a poor man being dragged in before the judge because he owes money and he can't pay his debts. There's the law smiting him in the face and condemning him. The poor man might have all kinds of good explanations. He might give reasons for his condition and why he's not able to pay. But the law says "No! You must pay!" And so judgment is rendered against that man no matter what his excuses or reasons might be.

But listen, suppose some friend comes along and pays the man's debts, takes care of his obligation? What happens then? Why friends, that takes care of everything. The debt is paid, the man is free, he's acquitted. The law is upheld. And the judge has done his duty. Everything is satisfied when the debt has been paid even though it might be paid by some friend instead of the accused man himself. Listen, when sin enters the life, the sentence of death by the divine law is immediately applied. When people sin, they are immediately charged by the law of God and the sentence of death is passed on them.

Now what can be done, friends? One of the first things God must do in order to save a sinner is to find some means of honorably acquitting the guilty sinner, so that the sentence of death does not have to be executed upon him. The debt must be paid. The law can't be changed and something must be found that will relieve this poor man of his condemnation, his guilt, and the sentence of death. It is impossible for man to atone for his own sin, but how can God remain righteous and still justify the unrighteous man? Here are some of the things that must be done:

1. The sinner must be saved.

2. God's righteousness and God's law must still be upheld.

3. The debt must be paid.

4. The ungodly man justified.

The great problem now was how God could accomplish all of this without sharing in the guilt of the transgressor or without doing away with His holy law altogether. How could it be done? With amazement and wonder and gratitude we consider the divine plan of heaven whereby the Saviour came down to exchange places with the sinner. I don't understand that, do you? Oh, I don't know how it could ever have been done. The love of God is without measure, it's without understanding. I can't fathom it, but I know that Jesus came down and made Himself of no reputation. He took upon Himself the form of a man. He became one of us. In order to share the blame and the guilt and to pay the price, He died the death that we deserve. Think of that Holy One without any spot, without any stain of guilt in His own life going to that cross and bearing the shame and dying the death and suffering the penalty that we deserved, in order that we, the guilty sinners, might be adopted into the family of God, given the status of the Son of God Himself, given the credit for all of His righteousness and goodness, and acquitted of our sins and considered as a member of the household of God as though we had never sinned.

The old, old story of the two brothers is almost a perfect illustration of both law and grace in operation. The older brother was a judge. His younger brother was brought before him as a transgressor of the law. From all the evidence it was clear to all that he was guilty. The court was tense. Would the judge mete out justice in such a case? The judge looked at his brother and sternly declared him guilty. Then he stunned the court by imposing the maximum fine. But immediately he left the bench and threw his arms around his brother and said, "I had to do it because you are guilty. I know you cannot pay the fine, but I will pay it for you."

The point of the story is dramatic in its impact. The brother was forgiven, but the penalty was not. It had to be paid. But by paying the maximum penalty the judge not only did not abolish the law, but he greatly magnified it. He demonstrated that its binding claims could never be voided. In the same sense God would not and could not abolish the law to save His beloved Son. It cost something to uphold the law and pay the maximum penalty. No one will ever know how much it cost the Son of God. But how thankful we should be that His love was as perfect as His justice. In His own body He bore the penalty, satisfied the law, and justified the transgressor.

Can't you see that no greater demonstration could have been made to prove the permanence of the ten commandments? In all the universe God could not have displayed a more convincing and irrefutable argument in favor of His law. Yet in the face of this tremendous exhibition, misguided millions of poor feeble men belittle the government of God by belittling His law. They seem not to understand that the law is only a reflection of His holiness and righteousness. To speak of its abolition is to border on treason against the divine government of heaven.

Have you opened your heart to this tremendous gift of love? Have you accepted the offer which can change your guilt into peace and joy? Do it now. The invitation is for you and everyone.

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