Where do we begin? – Romans 6, Exodus 34

The Second message in the With All My Heart series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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I hope as you have thought on every part of our hearts being redeemed, even our emotions, that you pondered what that would mean, how would that work?
Today I want to talk to you about a good place to start.
If you would, join me in two places.
You’ll want to put your finger or bookmark on Exodus 34 because we’ll be there in just a little bit, and then turn to Romans 6 because that’s where we are going to start out.
Romans 6 gives the main concept I want us to get and then Exodus 34 tells us where we should get started.

While you’re finding your way to those 2 passages, let me give you a quick vocabulary lesson that will be helpful in general, but especially helpful today.

Justification – jus·ti·fi·ca·tion – ˌjəstəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/
1. the action of showing something to be right or reasonable.
2. the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God.

According to scripture,. Including the verses that we are about to read, when we come to Christ confessing our need of him and repenting from our past life to follow him, we are instantly justified.
We experience “instant justification.” That means that immediately it’s as if we had never sinned, all of our sin is justified in the work and person of Jesus Christ.
We are in Christ, so when God looks at our sin, He sees Jesus. He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Let me show you in this passage, read Romans 6:15-18 with me…

“Being made FREE from sin” hold onto this phrase right here.
Underline it or highlight if you’re so inclined to underline and highlight…

Let’s keep reading. Read 19-23. Now let’s go back to verse 22.
In verse 22 we have a repeat of what we saw in 18,

“But now being being made free from sin”

Can we just stop here a moment and bask in the glory of that…
Christ has freed us from sin- we have been made free! All the things that you have ever done, all the mistakes you have made, every lie, every curse, every jealousy, every hatred, every lust, every bit of that- you’re free from it!

In Pilgrims Progress when John Bunyan writes of the main Character who is named Christian coming to the cross, there is a large burden that is freed or falls from his shoulders, he feels great relief from this weight falling from his shoulders and rolling away from him down the hill… and then it rolls into a sepulcher or grave…

This is Bunyan’s picture of us being freed from our sin.

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
till I came hither.

What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me, crack?
Blessed cross! Blessed sepulchre!
Blessed rather be the Man that there was put to shame for me.”

If you aren’t moved by the fact that you are freed from sin, you have either forgotten the weight of your sin or you’ve never realized it’s weight.
It may be that you’ve never realized it’s weight because it’s never been taken off your shoulders.
It may be that you’ve slowly accumulated this burden, this weight, these sins over the years and it’s only when they are freed at the cross that you can appreciate just how heavy they are upon your heart and soul. You can be free, today! You can be free in a moment, if you come to the Cross your sin can roll away into the abyss because of the death, burial, resurrection of Christ….

The burden rolls off of Christian’s back, but that isn’t the end of the book or the story, it’s just getting started.

Somewhere along the way, people came to believe that a relationship with Christ begins and ends in the same place- a prayer for forgiveness of sin…
There is no place in scripture where Jesus told the disciples, just pray a prayer. Just ask for forgiveness. He always said, follow me.

You see, the justification is instant, but sanctification is ongoing.
Look back at those two verses we highlighted earlier.
18 Being then made free from sin,
ye became the servants of righteousness.

22 But now being made free from sin,
and become servants to God,
ye have your fruit unto HOLINESS,
and the end everlasting life.

Now I talked to you about the meaning of Justification, let’s clarify the meaning of sanctification….

Sanctification – sanc·ti·fi·ca·tion – saŋ(k)-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən
the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion

In Christ we experience instant justification and progressive sanctification.

Let’s key in on that phrase,
You have your fruit unto holiness.
The idea of fruit is that it’s not just the result, it’s the reward.
Holiness isn’t just the result of life in Christ, it’s the reward.

How many of you like strawberries?
Everyone, right? What’s not to like about strawberries?
Unless you’re allergic to them, most people love strawberries…
Some of you may have even gone and picked strawberries recently down at Wright’s Berry Farm…
Let’s imagine this morning that you go to Wright’s Berry Farm and it’s hot, but you make your way through the field and you find yourself a quart of nice, plump, and ripe strawberries and you stop at the stand on the way out and pay, and then you walk away and hop in your car and drive home and you don’t realize it until you get home but you left your strawberries on counter there at the stand…
You paid good money, worked in the hot son, and then walked away from the reward, those sweet, juicy, plump, ripe strawberries…

Paul’s point here is that continuing to live broken sinful lives would be like walking away from the reward that Christ paid and worked for….
I’m afraid that we think of holiness as the work in the sun, but really it’s the reward for the work Christ has already done!

Another way to read verse 22 is this-
22 But now that you are freed from sin and serving God,
you gain this benefit and reward (or fruit) of sanctification, and the results are eternal.

Holiness is not a responsibility.
Holiness is a reward.

Discipleship isn’t merely something that you really ought to do…
Discipleship is something that we get to do, it’s a reward, benefit, fruit!!!

Growing in Christ isn’t something that you really ought to consider doing because it’s your responsibility as a Christian, it’s a wonderful, blessed, beautiful opportunity.

Sometimes I feel like a guy that is trying to convince people to cash a million dollar check. You’ve been given a million dollar check, it’s good, it’s signed, and if you’ll take it to the bank you’ll get a million dollars in cold hard cash, but it’s just sitting on your desk at home with a bunch of other paperwork that you’ll get to one day….

So how does it work?

Well, I’ve spent the message so far trying to point out where you can go, where you can head, what’s available if you’ll take steps toward it, but for you to get where your headed, you need to know where to start. You need to know where your coming from…

Remember mapquest?
You would go to their website and you would punch in your address and the address of the place that you wanted to go…
For those of you that have grown up with phones that have GPS on them, this is going to sound ridiculous to you, but if you punched in the starting location and the ending location, you’d get turn by turn directions and it was great!

Before this you had to buy a map. A big huge piece of paper that never folded the same way twice and you had to look at it and determine which would be the best road to take and then follow it…
This was such a complicated service that AAA used to provide a service that if you went to them, they would give you a map with your route highlighted…

I worked for this company that managed properties all over the state of Virginia and when you were sent on the “out west trip” you would get directions to houses 6 hours away, and then from there you’d go to another one. The secretary used to plug in directions form the office to that first house, then from the first house to the second house, and you’d have this stack of papers with turn by turn direction…

Today, we have GPS so it automatically figures out your location and then it can compute directions from right where you are at, and if you miss the turn, it will recalculate from your current location to the destination… Back then there was no recalculating, there was only the piece of paper. It was go back to the turn you missed and keep following the directions…

Some of you are trying to use someone else’s mapquest directions…
You’re trying to take the same route they did but you’re coming from a completely different situation and completely different direction…

Knowing your destination is practically useless
if you don’t realize your location.

When people get lost in the woods or in a wilderness, the problem isn’t that they don’t know where they want to go, they don’t know where they’re at…
They know they want to go home, but they don’t know which direction to take to get there because they got no idea of where they are at…

I remember watching this dateline (or some show like it) about this couple that rented this cabin in the thick jungle in the Amazon. The Cabin had a trail that circled through the jungle and came back to the cabin, but there was a turn off onto a longer trail that they must have taken by mistake…
Apparently when they took that longer trail at the fork, they became concerned that they had been walk for too long and that they should have been back by now because it was about to get dark, so they decided to cut through the jungle to make it back to the cabin before dark… in the thickness of the jungle, they lost all orientation and they died from the elements after days of wandering even though they were only a mile from the cabin. They knew where they wanted to go, but they had no idea where they were…

You will never get where you’re headed
if you don’t first face where you’re at.

Exodus 34…
34:1 – Israel has sinned, Moses has to make new plates for the commandments because he broke the other ones on the golden calf…

34:5-7 God comes to meet with Moses.
He says he is loving, kind, forgiving, but he will not stand for sin, in fact the punishment for sin will rest on the children and grandchildren of the offender…

God saves us from the eternal consequences of our sin, but we still face the temporal consequences.
We are instantly justified before God, but our sins follow us, and they’ll even follow our children.

Even if your parents and grandparents were Godly people, their imperfections, their brokenness, their sin was handed down to you.

Nothing has shaped you more than your past.
Few things have formed you more than your family.

Nothing has played a greater role in your formation, in the shape of your heart, than your past. Your family, your relationships, your decisions, they all shaped your heart… They all shaped your thinking…

When God saves you, he gave you a new home in heaven,
but he doesn’t give you a new home in your past…

When God saves you, he forgives the decisions you made in the past, but he doesn’t reverse all the decisions of your past…

God saves us from the eternal consequence of our sin through justification and saves us from the temporal consequences of our sin through sanctification.

You see, some of you have been saved by Christ and you’ve been given a new family, but your life is more characterized by the family you had… Some of you, you have been saved by Christ and he’s given you new life, promised you eternal life, but your life is still more characterized by the way your past shaped your heart…

Now for those of you like me that grew up in church, hear this… The difference between our new life and old life isn’t as stark so it’s easier for us to hide for longer…. Our family life may be somewhat similar to our new family and the difference isn’t as contrasting, so it’s easier for us to blend in… All of us need to be transformed, all of us get to become more like Christ, and that’s starts with where we are at….

So if we need to be transformed, if we get to become more like Christ, we need to start where we are at, and that means facing who we are.

To start where we are at, we need to face who we are.

John Calvin said, without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self and without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God. Calvin’s point is that we can’t truly understand who we are apart from the truth of God’s wisdom, and we can’t accurately understand God’s place without recognizing our place.

You see, when we recognize the sin of our own hearts…
When we see the inconsistencies in our own lives, when we realize our own brokenness, our own humanity, our own wickedness, we can more fully appreciate God’s goodness…

Remember how we started last weeks message?
Jesus is arguing with Pharisees and they ask, what’s the most important law. They were trying to trip Jesus up by making him elevate one law above all the others so they could accuse him of degrading other parts of the law…
Jesus constant argued with the pharisees telling them they worked so hard to keep the outside clean but that the inside was full of dirt and corruption…

The Pharisees were appalled. They believed they were righteous. They had no self awareness.
Their lack of knowledge of self was so great that Jesus once said to them, you’re like a guy trying to get he speck out of someone else’s eye when you’ve got a beam stuck in your own eye…

Why didn’t they “get Jesus?” Because they didn’t get how messed up they were…

Let’s go back to Pilgrim’s Progress.
John Bunyan starts the book out like this:

“…behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.
I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’”

Bunyan’s character came to know God, but first he came to know how lost he was.

Let me invite you to be honest about where you are at. Be clear about your sin.