Rom 01:01-16 | The Gospel of Christ

Romans 1:1-16

I. It is a Divine Gospel. vs. 1-5

1.   Divine in its source: v1. “the gospel of God.” 2.   Divine in its subject: v. 3, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”    (1) Made human, v. 3    (2) Manifested Divine, v. 4

II. It is a Dynamic Gospel v. 16

1. Its object is salvation 2. Its operation is by faith 3. Its outreach is to everyone

III. It is a Demanding Gospel

1. Submission to the Sovereignty of Christ, vv, 3,5 2. Separation to the Service of Christ, vv. 1, 9-16


©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2001


Rom 08:28-30 | Ministry of Circumstances

Text: Romans 8

You can have victory over sin, victory over self and victory over Satan, but there is another area in which we must have victory if we are going to live a consistent Christian life.  Unless we come to experience victory in this area, then in all of the other areas (sin, self, Satan) we will not accomplish the life of overcoming that God has intended all of us to experience.  I want to speak to you today on victory over situations, or victory over circumstances.  I want you to remember that phrase victory over circumstances because in a moment I am going to change the wording of this phrase, and it is going to be an essential change.  In the changing of that wording you are going to find the key to being victorious over every circumstance.

There are two kinds of circumstances.  1)  There are those circumstances that we can control and they pose little or no problem.  If there is a circumstance we are not particularly fond of and we can change it, then we change it.  But there are other circumstances that present problems in living in victory.  2) These are circumstances we cannot control.  So there are circumstances we can control, and there are circumstances we cannot control.  There are circumstances we can change, and then there are circumstances that we cannot change—even though we wish we could.

I have an idea there are some of us here today that are dreading to see this conference conclude because we are going to have to return to a situation that we wish we could change but know we are powerless to do so..    This is the circumstance over which we need to have victory.  Unless you and I leave this conference knowing how to experience victory over uncontrollable and unchangeable circumstances, we are not going to live a consistent Christian life.  You see, everywhere you go you are in the midst of circumstances.

Now, I want to change that phrase: victory over circumstances.   Here was an adverse, contrary circumstance I didn’t like.  I viewed that circumstance as an Amalek standing in my way before the Promised Land saying, you will not go in.  I would say, Lord, if I am ever to enter into the Promised Land, I must overcome this circumstance.  Somehow  I must change it, go around it or tunnel under it.  Lord, help me to get victory over this circumstance.  I have viewed my contrary, adverse circumstances as obstacles in my path, presenting a barrier to my progress in the Christian life.

The word I want to change is the word over.  I want to change it to the word through.  It is not victory over your circumstances; it is victory through your circumstances.  If you ever change your viewpoint about adverse circumstances from trying to get victory over or around them, to not viewing them as an obstacle standing in your path or blocking your progress, that is the key to victory:  they are the MEANS by which you enter into victory.  That is the key.  Victory through the circumstances gives you victory over the circumstances.  I am really not going to speak to you about victory over your circumstances, I am going to speak to you about victory through your circumstances.

There is a verse I discovered sometime ago.  Well, I didn’t really discover it; that’s like saying I discovered America!  But I ran across it.  In Isaiah, chapter 49, God is dealing with the people’s exodus from captivity and how they are going to get back to the Promised Land.  Along the way, they are going to meet some obstacles.  It is going to be rough terrain as they make their journey from Babylon back to the Promised Land.  They are going to have to go through mountainous terrain.

Notice what he says in verse 11:  And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.  Look at that first phrase:  And I will make all my mountains a way.  The New American Standard reads like this:  And I will make all my mountains a road.  The New English Bible reads:  I will make every hill a path.  Notice he does not say that he will make a way over the mountains.

He doesn’t say I will make a way through the mountains.  He doesn’t say I will make a way around the mountains.  He says the mountains will be the ROAD by which you get back into your land.  The mountains actually become the road. In other words, he is saying obstacles, circumstances and mountains that stand in your way are not that which block you from entering into victory; they are the means of your entering into victory.  My mountains will be the way.  If the mountains are not there, you can’t get there.  If it were not for the mountains, you could not enter in.  It is not victory over your circumstances that you need, it is victory through your circumstances.  That adverse, contrary circumstance is not a barrier or an obstacle; it is the means that God has divinely appointed by which you will pass into victory.  It is the door, or the road.

Now we are ready to read our text in Romans 8, verses 28, 29 and 30:
28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

I want you to imagine with me this morning the three points of a triangle.  We are going to start with the apex of the triangle.  The first point, the top of the triangle, we are going to label The Purpose of God.  If I am to have victory in every situation of my life, then I must first of all understand the eternal purpose of God.  He says we know that all things right now are working together for good (and that good is not the good of ease and comfort but the good of God’s purpose), and all things are working together to accomplish that purpose–to those who are called according to his purpose.  Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to become conformed to the image of his Son.  There is the eternal purpose of God.   What is it that God is trying to accomplish in my life?  What is that good that all things are working together to accomplish?  It is this:  that I might be conformed to the image of his Son.  Williams Translation reads like this:  He marked us off to become like His Son.  The word conformed means that my inner being, my essence and actuality, will become like the Lord Jesus.  It does not refer to my appearing like the Lord Jesus by my actions only.  It means that there is that divine plan and purpose that I will actually in essence become like the Lord Jesus.  That is the eternal purpose of God for every believer.

Salvation is simply God restoring the image that man lost in the fall.  The Bible says that we were created in the image of God.  The image of God is man’s capacity to know God, to worship God, and to fellowship with God, and do all three perfectly.  Only man is made in the image of God.  Only man has the capacity to know God, to worship God, and to fellowship with God.  You never saw a dog bowing his head and thanking God for his dog food.  You never saw a cow worshipping.   Only man has a thirst after God.  There is born within every man an insatiable desire for God because man was made in the image of God.  That image was not destroyed by the fall; it was marred by the fall.  It’s like a bombed out building.  The shell still stands.  The semblance is still there, but it has been marred and perverted.  There is still in man a semblance of the image of God but it is not as it was originally.  That image, our ability to worship God, our capacity to know God and the fellowship of God has been marred, crippled, almost atrophied.  God is seeking in salvation to restore the image of God to us.

He says that you and I have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s son.  That is God’s purpose for every person.  The word purpose means to design beforehand.  He is working this out on two levels.  First of all, he is working it out in the future.  You mark it down; there is going to be a day when every person who has ever been saved will be exactly like Jesus.  This is a promise for the future.  That is one level upon which God is working out his purpose.  Someday in the future when Jesus comes, and we see him, we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye.  This corruptible will put on incorruptible; this mortal will put on immortality, and we will all be changed into his glorious likeness.

But God is working on another level.  He is also working on the level of the present tense.  In other words, right now, today, God is conforming us to his image.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we, as we behold the glory of the Lord, are being changed from glory unto glory into the same image by the Holy Spirit.  When I was saved, the Holy Spirit took up residence within me.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to me through the Word and other means to open my eyes to see Jesus.  As I am beholding the Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I am being changed into the likeness of Jesus.  How?  From glory unto glory.  That means from one degree to another degree, changing us bit by bit, gradually into the likeness of Jesus.

You are not changed in this life into the likeness of Jesus by one cataclysmic, ecstatic experience.  It happens bit by bit.  One of the greatest disappointments was in believing that one of these days I would turn the corner and God would put a holy zap on me.  He would say, poof, you’re just like Jesus.  That’s not the way it happens.  Sometimes people have offered us experiences in which we would be changed into the likeness of Jesus, the old sin nature would be eradicated, and everything would be just as it ought to be.  It never happens that way.  He is changing us bit by bit by bit.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want that final change when Jesus comes to be so traumatic.   The goal that I have is that when he comes to finally finish off the job, there won’t be that much to do.  The tragedy is that for a great many people the coming of the Lord will not be a rapture; it will be a rupture because the change will be so drastic. What God is seeking to do in my everyday life is to make me like Jesus.  This is essential in understanding if I am to get the best out of the worst and if I am to have victory through my circumstances.  I must understand what the purpose of God is.  God is working even today to make me like Jesus.  That’s the apex of the triangle.

The two bottom points of the triangle support the purpose of God.   I want you to label ths point on the right The Predestination of God.  The predestination of God assures us of the purpose of God.  The purpose of God is that I am to be like Jesus.  The predestination of God guarantees that will happen.  Let’s look at verse 29:  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.  Now, I am not going to try to explain the mystery of predestination.  The reason is that I do not know the explanation for it.  This is one of those areas where you must know without understanding.  I do not understand predestination but I know it is a fact because the Bible teaches it.  The word predestinate means to mark (choose) beforehand.

In eternity God designed me before I was ever born.  That design was to be like Jesus.  God is not going to leave it up to me to become like Jesus because he knows I’ll never make it.  So God guarantees that his purpose will be fulfilled.  He guarantees it like this:  in eternity past before any of us were even born, God knew us and he drew a circle around us and said I am going to guarantee you are going to be like Jesus.  The predestination of God guarantees the purpose of God.  That purpose of God is supported by the predestination of God.  Friends, if you have been saved–like it or not–someday you are going to be like Jesus.  There is no power in heaven or earth or hell that can ever prevent you from being like Jesus.  You mark it down.  Regardless of how discouraged you may be today, one of these days you are going to be exactly like Jesus.  Why?  In eternity past before you were ever born, God drew a circle around you and said you are mine.

Paul writing to the Philippians in chapter 1, verse 6, says:  I am confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ.  Friend, God never leaves any work undone.  What God starts, he always finishes.  One of my favorite passages is the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.  In verse 37 Jesus said:  All that the Father giveth me (there’s predestination) shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.  Verse 39:  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Jesus said the Father has given me some people.  Everybody that he gave me is going to come to me.  You say if I believe in predestination, that discourages evangelism.  Oh no, that encourages it.  Everyone that the Father has given the Son are going to come to him.  If they don’t come to him, they have not been given.  They cannot come until they have been given to Son of the Father.  He says that he that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.  You say, what if we sin?  He will in no wise cast you out because the Father gave you to him.  I will raise him up at the last day.  Upon that last day, Jesus is going to stand before the Father and say, Father, everyone you gave me is here and accounted for.  Not one is lost and not one is missing.  The predestination of God is God’s guarantee that someday you and I will be exactly like Jesus.  Beloved, now we are the sons of God.  It doth not yet appear what we shall be (don’t have any idea what we are going to be).  It’s incomprehensible to see what we will be like in heaven.  I do know this.  We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.  Every man that has this hope in his heart is purifying himself just like Jesus is pure.  The purpose of God is to be like Jesus.  The predestination of God guarantees it.

I’m glad that I have a Lord like this.  I am guaranteed.  It says in verse 30:  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  That’s past tense.  Have you ever noticed how much of the book of Revelation is written in the past tense even though it is in the future?  Have you ever noticed that Isaiah 53 is written in past tense even though it is prophesying an event that wouldn’t happen until 700 years later?  Do you ever wonder why God wrote prophecy in the past tense?  Even God himself can’t change it once it is history.  You and I understand that God can do anything, but I am speaking after the infirmity of your flesh.  He writes in the prophetic past.

George Washington was the first president of the United States.  There’s not anything you can do about that.  You can’t change that.  There’s not a thing you can do about it.  God is saying that it is so certain and so secure that you are already glorified.  It has already happened.  It’s in the past tense.  God guarantees it.  Right now I’m glorified.  I don’t look much like I’m glorified.  Sometimes I don’t sound too glorified.  But friend, when God looks at me, he says I’m glorified.  How can I lose my salvation if I’m already in heaven—glorified?

God is a present tense God.  There is no past and no future with God.  Let’s suppose that I’m standing on top of a building.  I remember years ago hearing Dr. J. P. McBeth use this illustration.  It made such an impression on me.  On top of the building, I am watching people walk.  I am watching a fellow.  I saw where he started.  I see where he is going.  I see where he is.  Right now, that fellow is right below me.  Now, where he was is his past; where he is going is his future.  But from my vantage point where he was is my present; where he is going is my present; and where he is is my present.  From my viewpoint, it’s all now.  From God’s viewpoint my whole life is all now.  I look back to where I was ten years ago, and that is my past.  But that is God’s now.  I wonder where I’m going to be ten years from now.  That’s my future but it is God’s now.  You see, God is the eternal now; there is no past or future.  It is all present.  God can say you are already glorified.  The purpose of God is to be like Jesus.  The predestination of God assures the purpose of God.
Let’s come  to the third point of the triangle.  Remember that these two bottom points support the purpose of God.  The third point of the triangle is the providence of God.  The purpose of God is to be like Jesus.  The predestination of God assures that purpose.  The providence of God accomplishes that purpose.  The purpose of God , which has been guaranteed by predestination, is in the present life being accomplished by God’s providence.  What is providence?  Purpose is to design beforehand.  Predestination is to choose beforehand.  Providence is to provide beforehand.  Providence is made up of two words:  pro (before) and  video (to see).  It means to see beforehand and to plan accordingly.  The providence of God is this:  God saw every situation I would be in before I was ever in it, every circumstance I would ever encounter before I ever encountered it, he saw beforehand everything that would happen to me and he planned accordingly.  If I know what is going to happen, I can make provision before it happens.  That’s why you buy a burial plot, isn’t it?  You know if the Lord tarries, you are going to die.  Knowing therefore what is going to happen, you can provide for it.  God knows everything that is going to happen—every detail, every turn in the corner, every rut in the road.  In eternity past he looked down, saw everything that was going to happen to us, and made provision for it.  I may be surprised at what happens to me tomorrow but God isn’t.  He has already made provision..
Verse 28:  And we know that all things are working together for good.  That’s the providence of God.  The purpose of God is to be conformed to the image of God.  The predestination of God guarantees it.  The providence of God is God right now, today, working all things together to accomplish that good.  Notice that he says ALL things are working together. Working together has the idea of all things fitting together like pieces in a puzzle, meshing together like gears.  When you work a big jigsaw puzzle, you dump it all out on the table, and it looks like you will never be able to work that thing.

For Christmas we got some big jigsaw puzzles.  There was one that looked absolutely beautiful on the cover of the box.  We bought some of this stuff you spray on it to make it stick so you can keep it and put it in a frame.  We worked for days and days and days and got it all finished but there was one piece lost.  It ruined the whole puzzle.  We looked under rugs, in pants pockets, in closets, everywhere for that one missing piece.  Now, every time we start working a jigsaw puzzle, I have a fear the last piece may be missing.  I know a lot of Christians who go through life worrying that the last piece may be missing.  Friend, it won’t be because God is fitting everything together to accomplish that purpose.  You put it down, and rest on it.  The providence of God is him taking everything in my life and causing it to mesh together to accomplish that purpose of making me like Jesus.

I want to share with you what I consider to be the greatest illustration in the Bible of the providence of God.  It is found in Genesis, chapters 45 and 50.  The story is of Joseph and his brothers.  They were jealous of Joseph.  One day Joseph came to meet his brothers in Dothan.  They said, since dad likes him best; let’s kill him.  Reuben said, no, let’s don’t kill him.  Let’s not shed his blood.  Let’s just throw him over here in a pit.  There’s no water in the pit, so if we just leave him there, he will die.  They sat down to have lunch and decided there was no profit in letting him die.  Some Ishmaelites came by and they decided to sell him. We’ll kill two birds with one stone.  We’ll get rid of Joseph and make a little profit too.  They said let’s go pull him out of the pit.  Before they got there, some Midianite merchants came along and drew him out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him into Egypt.

Seventeen years later, you know the story.  A famine has come to the land and Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt because they have heard there is plenty of food there.  Joseph meets these brothers two or three times and does not reveal himself.  They do not recognize him but he knows them.  In Genesis, chapter 45, he just cannot contain himself any longer.  He must tell these brothers who he is.  He was weeping.  Notice what he says in verse 4:

Then Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you.  And they came near.  And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.  Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.  For these two hears hath the famine been in the land:  and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God:
Three times in this passage he says to his brothers, who thought they were the ones who sent him to Egypt:  it was not you, it was God.  He didn’t want his brothers taking credit for something that God did.  You say, that’s crazy.  It was his brothers who sold him into Egypt.  I will take Joseph’s word before I’ll take yours.  After all, he was the one who was there.  Three times he says, it was not you, it was God.  That is not predestination.  Predestination would mean that God made Joseph’s brothers hate Joseph and seek to kill him.  That’s providence.  God knew they were going to be filled with envy and try to kill him.  What did he do?  He made provision for it.  He planned for it.  God wasn’t caught off guard.  He had those Ishmaelites coming because he knew Joseph was going to be in a pit.

Look over in Genesis, chapter 50, verse 20.  Joseph is again speaking to his brothers:  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Friend, do you know how to have victory through every circumstance, therefore, victory over every circumstance?  Would you like to know how to get the best out of the worst?  You stand before every contrary, adverse circumstance and say two things to it:  It’s not you; it’s God.  It’s not evil; it’s good.  That is what Joseph said about the worst thing that ever happened to him.  It wasn’t you that did it; it was God.  It wasn’t evil; it was good.  You meant it unto me for evil; but God meant it unto me for good.  My dear friends, God always means it for your good.  All things are working together for your good, that ultimate good to make us like Jesus.

The providence of God does two things.  1)  It provides for every eventuality in my life.  It causes things to happen that are beyond my power to accomplish.  For instance, there is no way that Joseph could have arranged for those Ishmaelites to be passing by just at that precise moment.  But God provided for every event and had those Ishmaelites coming by at just the right time.

History tells us that the Egyptians hated Hebrews.  They would not even eat at the same table with a Hebrew.  Yet, just by coincidence, Joseph falls into the hands of Potiphar, the one man in all of Egypt who recognized in Joseph a man of worth.  He sat and ate at Potiphar’s table—an unbelievable thing.  He made him lord over all his house.  The providence of God caused things to happen that Joseph could not accomplish.  Joseph couldn’t have walked up to Potiphar one day and said, I’m a good little Hebrew boy, and I want to sit down and eat with you and be lord over your house.  They would have kicked him out.  They would have put him to death.  Hebrews were despised by the Egyptians.  Miracle of miracles, Potiphar sits him at his table and makes him lord over all his house.  The providence of God causes things to happen that are beyond my power to accomplish.

Finally, he is thrown into prison by a lie of Potiphar’s wife.  It just so happened that a baker and a butler were there.  They had a dream, and it just so happened that Joseph was able to interpret that dream.  It just so happened there was going to be a famine.  There was no way that Joseph could have arranged a famine in the land.  The providence of God is God causing things to happen that I could not accomplish.  Why?  In order to do me good.  It provides for every eventuality in my life.  There is a second thing that the providence of God does.

2)  It protects me from every enemy in my life.  It causes thing not to happen that are beyond my power to avoid.  This is humorous to me.  Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him but they couldn’t.  They thought they had gotten rid of him but they hadn’t.  Potiphar’s wife wanted to destroy him but she didn’t.  Listen carefully.  The prison became the path to the palace.  At every turn when his enemies tried to destroy him, God stepped in and used that mountain as a road, a freeway to accomplish his purpose.

The way you have victory through your circumstances is that God protects you from every enemy in your life.   He does it by making servants out of those enemies.  Would you say that Joseph’s brothers were his enemies?   You would, wouldn’t you?  If I had eleven brothers who wanted to kill me, it wouldn’t take long for it to dawn upon me that these fellows are my enemies.  Were they his enemies?  Yes.  What did God do?  He turned them into his servants.  Joseph ended up prime minister of Egypt.  Would you say that Potiphar’s wife was Joseph’s enemy.  I would say that she was.  But God made Potiphar’s wife Joseph’s servant.

The Apostle Paul tells us that one day he received a messenger of Satan to buffet him, a thorn in the flesh, an enemy.  He sought the Lord three times to get rid of the enemy.  Lord, remove the obstacle.  Lord, I’ve got a circumstance I don’t like, and I want to get victory around it.  I want to get victory over it.  God said, I’ve got something better than getting rid of the thorn.  I’ll give you grace.  My grace is sufficient for you.  Paul, the weaker you become, the stronger my power becomes in you.  God took that enemy of the Apostle Paul and made it into his servant and served him up glorious power—so much so that the Apostle Paul was able to say he now rejoiced in his infirmities, distresses, and persecutions.
Of course, the greatest illustration of this is the cross.  You would say the cross was the greatest enemy of Jesus.  But it was through the cross that Jesus Christ was exalted as Lord and Savior.  God took the enemy and made it into his servant.

Friend, I don’t know  what in your life today is your enemy.  I want you to know that God wants to take that enemy and make it into your servant,  to make you lord over your Egypt.

I hesitate to make this statement because I don’t want anybody to misunderstand.  Wouldn’t you say that Joseph’s brethren sinned in selling their brother into Egypt?  If Joseph had not been in Egypt seventeen years later, they would have starved to death.  Listen, their sin became their salvation.  Wouldn’t you say it was a sin to crucify Jesus?  That sin became our salvation!  You say, are you encouraging us to sin?  No, I am trying to get you to see a God who is so sovereign and powerful that he can take sin and turn it into salvation.  The providence of God takes every enemy and makes it into your servant.  God is in charge of every circumstance in your life.  God uses it.  Where did God want Joseph?  He wanted Joseph in a position where he could save people.  Joseph said, God did it that he might preserve you a posterity.  God used that circumstance to accomplish his purpose.

Let’s tie it all together.  God has a plan and a purpose.  That purpose is to make you like Jesus.  God has guaranteed that purpose is going to be fulfilled some day.  But he doesn’t want to wait until someday.  He wants to do it right now so that you can be a display case to the glory of God to a lost and dying world.  And so that you can be a source of life to others as Joseph became a source of life to others.  God is right now in this life trying to accomplish that purpose.  Do you know what tools God uses for that purpose?   The tool of circumstances.  God will arrange for you a set of circumstances, tailor-made, that will fit you perfectly.  They won’t sag or bag anywhere.  The purpose of those circumstances is to accomplish God’s purpose in your life.

Most of us are praying that God will change our circumstances.  Friend, God is not the least interested in changing your circumstances.  He is interested in changing your character.  When those circumstances have changed your character then God may change your circumstances.

To them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Rom 06:15-23 | The Real Thing

Text: Romans 6:15-23

Would you open your Bibles now to the book of Romans, chapter 6?  I am going to begin reading with verse 15 and read through the end of the chapter, verse 23.

“What then?  Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?  God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.  What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  ”

Now, I want to read again verses 17 and 18 because these two verses form the heart of the message that I want to share with you this morning.

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

The greatest compliment the devil has ever paid to Christianity is the fact that he tries to counterfeit it, because no man would ever counterfeit anything that was of no value.  The higher the value, the more likelihood it will be counterfeited.  I dare say that no one here this morning has seen a counterfeit penny, or a counterfeit brown paper bag.  I doubt even if anyone has ever counterfeited a dollar bill because it is not worth it.  If you are going to the trouble that it takes to counterfeit something, you might as well counterfeit something like a ten or a twenty.  One of the greatest compliments that the American twenty dollar bill has ever had paid it is the fact that it is counterfeited so much.
The devil is constantly counterfeiting Christianity.  The Word of God teaches this.  Jesus specifically taught it in Matthew, chapter 13, as he shared the parables of the kingdom.  He said the kingdom of God is like a man that has a field, and he sows some wheat in that field.  At night while he is asleep an enemy comes in and sows tares in that field.  They wake up in the morning, and behold the tares have sprung up and the servants want to know what has happened.  He said an enemy has done this.  They said, “Master, would you have us go out right now and tear out all the tares so just the wheat will remain?”  Jesus said no, leave it there.  In trying to separate the wheat from the tares, you are liable to pull up some of the wheat because it is such a good imitation.  It is such a good counterfeit.  Just let it grow side by side, and when the end comes, the angels will come and they can tell the difference.

But he said in parable after parable that there were going to be counterfeits.  I got to thinking about this the other day.  The devil has been doing this for a lot of years.  He started out as a counterfeiter in the history of man.  The temptation he gave to Eve was “if you do as I tell you, you shall do what?  You shall be as gods.”  You shall become as gods.  The devil started out at the top.  He said I will make you just like God.  He was very ambitious because he knew his own ability.  The devil has had a great deal of practice in counterfeiting Christians, so much so that it is increasingly difficult to tell the real thing from the wrong thing.

I had an interesting conversation with a man a few weeks ago.  His son works for the Treasury Department and is particularly concerned with counterfeit money.  He said he asked his son how they learn to tell the counterfeit money.  It is so difficult to tell the real from the false.  How do you learn to tell the real from the false?  The son said they study the real.  We don’t study the counterfeits; we study the real thing, and we study the real thing, and we study the real thing.  We become so familiar and know so well the real thing that we can easily spot the counterfeit.

What I want to do with you this morning is to study the real thing.  In our day, the term Christian applies to practically anybody that is not a murderer, or was not born in Russia.  If you stop the average man on the street and say, “Sir, are you a Christian?” it would be an insult if he were not a Christian.  He may not know anything at all about what it means to be saved and know Jesus, but after all, he is an American—and all Americans are Christians because this is a Christian nation.  By the way, there are people that still believe that.  I’ve gone to church; I’m not against God; I’m not an atheist; so, if I’m not an atheist, I must be a Christian.  The average person you meet on the street, if you ask if they are a Christian, they will believe that they are a Christian some way or another.  It is extremely essential that we understand really what a Christian is because a great many people are deceived this morning about the fact of being a Christian.  They feel because they have been baptized, confirmed, or have gone through the catechism, or were sprinkled as a child, or live a relatively good or moral life, and their life has been without any public scandal, and they give mental assent to a few spiritual truths, this somehow qualifies them to be a Christian.  But, it is not so.  We must remember, as God has prophesied, the real and the counterfeit are going to grow up together.
It is essential that you understand what the real thing is.  The great thing about this passage of scripture, particularly verses 17 and 18, is that it gives to us one of the best definitions in the Bible of what a Christian is.  For several weeks these verses have gotten hold of my heart, and I’ve been reading them over and over.  The thing that has so captivated me about it is that it puts in such clear and intelligible terms the definition of what it means to be saved.  It is a classic example of what happens when a man is saved.  The great that it says is this:  a Christian is a person in whom there has been a great transformation and a great change.

I want you to look at verse 17, the apostle Paul writing to these Roman Christians says, “But God be thanked that ye were.”  Verse 18:  Being then made free from sin, ye became.  He says ye were but ye became.  You were something; now there has been a change, a transformation—you have become something.

The basic starting point in understanding what it means to be a Christian is that a Christian is a person who has experienced a tremendous change in his life.  I don’t know how many times lately, just lately, I have heard somebody say, “I have been a Christian all my life.”  Nobody has been a Christian all their life because if you are this morning what you have always been, then you are not a Christian because a Christian is a person who has experienced a tremendous change in his life.  He was something, and he has become something.  So if there has not been a change in your life, if you are this morning as you have always been, you’ve never been saved.

Over and over again, the Bible makes it very clear concerning this change.  For instance, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 the apostle Paul says if any man be in Christ, he is therefore a new creation.  The change that takes place in a fellow’s conversion is so great that God says it is like a new creation—where there was nothing, now there is something.  Where there was no form, void, and emptiness, now there is life and meaning.  Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Jesus said except a man be born again (that’s a tremendous change; once he was not but now he is; once he was unborn, but now he has been born).  The moment of salvation, the experience of salvation is just as real and just as definite as a birth.

Another expression of salvation is that we have passed from death unto life.  I can’t think of a change any greater than that.  We have passed from death unto life.  There has been a tremendous change.  Another thing about this change—and this is all introduction before I get to what I want to talk about in the change—that is important for us to understand is that this is change that affects the whole man.  Listen to me carefully.  There are some people who have had a change of sorts and who have had an experience of sorts, but it has only been in one area of his life.  Let’s say it has only been in the emotional area of life.  Perhaps they come to a service like this, or a revival service, or something happens, a cataclysmic event happens in their life and they have an emotional experience.  There’s nothing wrong with having an emotional experience, but that’s just one part of it.  But there are those who have had nothing more than an emotional experience; they have been emotionally moved and stirred by a story by a preacher, by an incident, and they have looked upon this experience as salvation.

In Matthew 13, Jesus describes this.  He says there are some that when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy.  But he says that seed has fallen into shallow ground, and takes no root.  By and by, when the sun comes up, and things get a little hot, and the going gets a little rough, they fall by the wayside and die away because they had no root within themselves.  They are like seed that falls on shallow ground and immediately springs up but has no life, has no root because it goes not go deep enough.  If all you have had is an emotional experience, it has not gone deep enough.

Some people have an intellectual experience—that’s all, just an intellectual experience.  At one time they didn’t believe the Bible; they didn’t believe there was a God.  Somebody sat down and began to reason with them, and they began to have an intellectual battle with them and convinced them that the Bible is true.  They have intellectually accepted all the facts of the gospel, and they call this salvation.  But that is not enough!

I want you to notice how the apostle Paul puts it.  Salvation is a change that involves the totality of a man’s personality.  It involves his emotions because he obeys it from the heart (verse 17).  It is an obedience that springs from the seat and center of his emotions.  It is an emotional experience, but it is also an intellectual experience.  He says that you have obeyed that form of doctrine.  In other words, a man hears the doctrine, the teaching of the Word of God, believes it, and obeys it.  There is an intellectual change.  But that is not all.  There is a volitional change, a change in his will.  This is what turns the key.  You have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching which was delivered to you.  Salvation is a change that affects a man’s will; it affects his intellect; and it affects his emotions.  All of his life he is a person who with his will, and with his intellect, and with his emotions has had a change towards the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a change that affects every area of a man’s life.

I.  A change of ownership

Let me share with you two or three things about this change.  The change that comes in salvation is first of all a change of ownership.  Notice what he says in verse 16:

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

And verse 18:  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
Verse 20:  For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
Verse 22:  But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

So the first change that comes in a man’s life when he is saved is a change of ownership.

I want to say something that natural man hates.  This is a truth that man literally hates.  It is simply this:  No man has ever been at any time in his life free.  No man has ever been his own master.  He has never been the captain of his soul.  No man has ever been his own master.  Every  person is either a slave, a servant to sin, or he is a servant to righteousness, either of those two.  This morning, as you sit here in this place, you are either a slave to the devil and sin, or you are a slave to God and righteousness.  There are no other alternatives.  The reason natural man hates this is because what he wants to believe about himself more than anything else is that he is his own master, and he does as he well pleases.  But the Scriptures from cover to cover give this to be a lie.  A man is never absolutely free; at any point in his life he is either under the mastery of sin, or he is under the mastery of righteousness.  Every person without Jesus Christ this morning is a slave to sin.
Someone questioned that not long ago.  He said, “Preacher, now I realize that there are a great many people who are slaves to sin.  I see a drunkard lying in the gutter; he’s a slave to sin.  I see a dope addict; he’s a slave to sin.  I see a person who is possessed with hate and murder who is a thief; he is a slave to sin.  But I know some people who aren’t Christians yet they live very clean, moral, upright lives.  Actually, if you just look at the outward appearance of their lives, they hold a pretty good light to any Christian I know.  It is hard for me to believe that person, being as religious and moral and clean as he is, is a slave to sin.”

Do you know what our problem is?  We don’t understand what slavery to sin is.  The common misconception is that the devil’s supreme object is to make man sinful, but that is not the devil’s object.  The devil is not trying this morning to make you sinful—because that’s what you already are!  You were that way when he found you.  Some people have the idea that if the devil is going to condemn a man’s soul to hell that he must make him an open, wicked sinner; that he must make him an addict, or a drunkard, or a thief, or a liar, or must somehow possess him to an extent that he is a deeply wicked man.  That is not the purpose of the devil.  The slavery of sin is not to make a man sinful.  It is to prevent a man from believing in Jesus Christ.

Listen to what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The apostle Paul is simply saying the gospel is hid, and it is hid to those who are lost.  What’s happened?  The god of this world has blinded their eyes so they cannot see and understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  All the devil has to do to get a man to spend an eternity in hell is simply to keep him from seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ and believing in it.  The man or woman this morning who does not believe in Jesus Christ is as much a slave to sin as any drunkard, any dope addict, any murderer.  I don’t care how moral, upright, clean, respectable and religious they are.  If they do not believe in Jesus Christ and have not committed their lives to him, it is because they are the absolute slave of sin and Satan.  When a man is saved, it doesn’t eliminate slavery; it just changes his master.  He is set free from the mastery of sin and Satan, and he becomes the obedient slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is free.  He is free not to sin.  He is free not to obey the devil.  He is free to rise above the desires of his own nature.  He is free to please God.  He is free to serve God.  It is a slavery which brings liberty a man will ever know is when he finds himself the glad slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I can tell you this morning whether or not you are a Christian—if you have ever had a change of ownership.  Who do you belong to this morning?

The Pharisees came to Jesus one day and said we are Abraham’s seed.  Jesus said, “No,  your father is not Abraham.  Your father is the devil.”  They didn’t like that very much.  He said he could prove to them that their father is the devil because they always do the desires of the devil.

You are the complete slave of the devil.  Whatever the devil desires of you, that’s what you do.  To whom do you belong this morning?  Who owns your life?  Who dictates to you?  What desires are you fulfilling?  Are you free to fulfill the desires of God?  Is the pattern, habit, characteristic of your life that you serve the Lord and serve righteousness and your life is set free from the slavery of sin?  Or are you serving sin and self and the desires of the devil.  Salvation is a change of ownership.

II.  A change of obedience

In the second place, it is a change of obedience.  This is really what brings about the change—when we obey.  In verse 17, the scripture says:  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  It is a change of obedience.  It is a change that is wrought by obedience.

Listen!  How is a man saved?  He says you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you.  The King James says that this form of doctrine, or this teaching, which is the gospel, was delivered to you.  But that is not a correct translation.  All the other translations have translated it accurately.  It does not say that the form of doctrine, the teaching, was delivered to you.  See what I am delivering to you this morning is a form of doctrine.  I am delivering to you a sermon, a truth.  That is not what he is saying.  Literally, this is the way it reads:  that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  It is not that the form of doctrine was delivered to you, but that you were delivered to the form of doctrine.  Literally, the word means you were handed over to the doctrine.

Now, this is the divine initiative and the divine revelation that comes.  This is the beautiful way that God works in bringing a man to salvation.  He takes a man and in that man he says I am going to give you a chance to be saved.  The offer of salvation is to you.  He takes that man and hands him over, delivers him to the truth of the Word of God, to that form of teaching.  That is why you are here this morning.  You may not be aware of it, but that is why you are here this morning.  You say I came because my mother dragged me.  I came because my wife insisted.  I came because I had relatives who wanted to come to church.  I just came out of coincidence.  No, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but you have been delivered by God unto the doctrine this morning.  You have to sit here and listen.  You can shift into neutral and count how many choir members are wearing glasses, but you have been delivered to the gospel this morning.  Long before the world was ever founded, God knew you would be here.  Do you know what He has done?  He has handed you over to the gospel, and this is where you are this morning.  God has delivered you into this place to hear the Word of God.

Now, what are you going to do about it?  You must respond!  The Christian is that person who, once God delivered him and handed him over to the Word of God, the truth, he responded by obeying.  That is an act of the will.  It is not an emotional experience or intellectual assent; it is obeying.

Do you notice he doesn’t say a thing here about believing?  It’s because obeying and believing are the same thing, but obeying puts it in a better way because sometimes we have the idea that to believe is passive and just sits down and does nothing.  But belief is active.  He says you obey the form of doctrine.  You obeyed it.  God delivered you to it.  He put you in a situation where you had to hear it and respond to it, and you responded to it by obeying it, doing it, submitted to it.  That is when a man is saved.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 says that when Jesus Christ comes back, He is coming back in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon them who know not God and obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A man is saved when he obeys the Word of God, that form of teaching.

Let me say just a word about that word form.  It is a tremendous word.  It means a mold into which material is poured and shaped.  It was used of a print that was left on an arm when somebody bit you.  It was used of the mark of a branding iron, or the seal on a ring.  It means a mold.  I want you to see what the apostle Paul is saying.  This is where the change comes in.  There has to be a change.

God delivers a man to the Word of God, to the form of teaching, puts him in a way that he hears it.  He obeys the form.  What does that mean?  It doesn’t necessarily say he obeys the doctrine.  He obeys the form.  He obeys the mold, submits to the mold.  Let’s suppose you want to make something, and you have a mold.  Let’s say you take plaster of Paris and pour that into the mold.  That plaster of Paris is obeying the mold and submitting to the mold.  As it obeys the mold, and submits to the mold, the mold shapes its life and determines its shape and appearance.  When a person obeys the Word of God, that Word of God is going to shape and change and mold his life.  There is going to be a change because he has obeyed it.  He gives himself to it.  He submits to the mold and says, Lord, here is the form of teaching.  Here is the Word of God.  I know that my life has been changed.  I know you continually want to change it.  I pour myself into the mold of the Word of God.  I submit to it.  I obey it.  I will allow it to shape and mold my life.

That is a Christian.  He obeys it from his heart.  It is not burdensome.  It is a joy, a delight.  Psalm 1 says the man that knows God is the one who delights in the law.  I’m glad he said law.  Law isn’t something you would delight in.  I don’t delight in 55 miles an hour.  I don’t delight in the laws about income tax.  Whoever heard of getting a kick out of the law?   Who ever heard of enjoying and delighting in the law?  But he chose that word purposely.  He delights in the law of the Lord; it is his joy.  As one hymn writer said, “My gracious Lord, I own thy right to every service that I can pay, and my supreme delight is to hear thy commands and obey.”  You see John said His commandments were not grievous, not burdensome when you obey from the heart.  A Christian is a person who delights in the law of the Lord.  His greatest joy is finding out what God tells him to do and doing it.

Are you a Christian?  Has there been a change of obedience. At one time, you obeyed self, your own desires, the devil, everybody else.  Have you come to the Lord Jesus Christ and poured yourself into the mold and said, “Lord Jesus, today I hand over my life to you, and you do with it as you please.  You shape my life.”  Have you obeyed?  Have you had a change of obedience?

III.  A change that is obvious

One last thing and we are through.  It is a change that is obvious.  You notice what he says in verse 21:  What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?  Verse 22:
But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about fruit, but there is one thing I do know about fruit; it’s obvious.  I couldn’t tell you what a tree is.  You take me out and tell me to look at the bark on the tree, the leaves.  What kind of tree is this?  I wouldn’t know.  It could be an oak tree, an elm tree, a spaghetti tree, a peanut tree.  I wouldn’t have any idea what kind of tree it was.

But I will tell you something; if I went out there and saw an apple growing on a tree, it would just take a few minutes for my keen, analytical mind to get hold of that and say, “Aha, that is an apple tree!”  Why?  Because the fruit is obvious.  You can say all you want to say, but a man identifies his master by the life he lives.  You can go to church, sing loudly, profess loudly, and say all manner of things, but I can tell who your master is by the life that you live—by your obedience, by your conduct.  The change is obvious.  You won’t have to go around telling everybody you are saved.  They will know it.  The change is obvious.  Why?  He says because you are servants to righteousness and there’s fruit.  Notice what the fruit is—fruit unto holiness.  You thought it was fruit of service.  I’ve been teaching a class.  I don’t care.  Are you holy?  You say you witnessed to ten people last week, and three of them were saved.  I don’t care.  Are you holy?  You say you are a deacon in the church, and you tithe.  I don’t care.  Are you holy?  Are you living a life of holiness?  Preacher, I’m a Sunday School teacher.  I don’t care.  You could be a false teacher and teach the truth, but your fruit?  Are you holy?

I was reading Matthew 7 the other day where Jesus says by their fruit you shall know them.  He was talking about false teachers.  By their fruit you shall know them for a good tree brings forth good fruit, but a bad tree brings forth rotten fruit.  I discovered two things. ???
(1)  I discovered that a man in order to be a false teacher doesn’t have to do false teaching.  Did you notice He didn’t say you will be able to discern false teaching; he said you will discern false teachers.  There is a difference.  A man can teach the truth and be false and lead you astray.  Did you know that?  It’s not the teaching that proves you are genuine.  You can be false and still teach the truth but be a false teacher.

How do you tell the difference between false teaching and the false teacher and the real thing?  By their fruit you shall know them—for a good tree brings forth good fruit, and a bad tree, an evil tree brings forth rotten fruit.  Jesus did not say (and this is what I would have assumed He would have said) you will know a false teacher by his teaching.  And when a fellow’s teaching is false, you will know he is false.  He didn’t say that, did he?  Do you know why?  It’s because sometimes it is pretty hard to discern false teaching.  Even I have been fooled.  I know that comes as a shock to all of you.

There are so many people going around today, and they mix so much truth with their little bit of error, it is hard to discern false teaching.  If a fellow got up here and denied the virgin birth and the deity of Christ, we would know in a minute.  We wouldn’t need a magnifying glass to see he is a false teacher, but he can come up with silver tongue and eloquent voice and just suggest a little bit, a few little innuendos, just raise a little doubt.  It’s hard to tell false teaching.

(2)  The second thing I discovered is that a false teacher is recognized by his fruit—the life he lives. (My addition – Lynda)
I want to tell you something.  Even a child can recognize a rotten apple.  Jesus said if you want to know who is a false teacher, don’t look at their teaching—look at the life they live.  Look at the fruit.  If the fruit of their teaching, the fruit of their life is not one of holiness, they are false.  I don’t care what they teach.

There has been a fellow around for a long time on the radio and here and there.  Years ago when I was in college, I recognized him as a false teacher because his teaching was not so hard to discern.  I’ve noticed in later years it has gotten harder and harder and harder to discern.  Everywhere I go lately, church people, professing Christians have been sucked in to this religion this fellow has been propagating all these years.  It is getting more difficult to discern that he is not true.  But do you know what happened just a week or so ago?  Well, it came out that he had been living an immoral life.  Jesus said by their fruits you will know them.

I could take one of these boys or girls sitting on the front row this morning.  I could sit them down in front of that radio or television and tell them to listen to this man and tell me if he is true or false.  They couldn’t do it.  But anybody could recognize that a man who lives an immoral life is false.  Jesus said by their fruit you will know them.  Anybody can recognize rotten apples.  The change that comes in a man’s life when he is saved is obvious.  It’s obvious.  It is a fruit of holy living.  The change is obvious.

Have you had a change like this?  Has there ever been a change in your life?  You say preacher, I’m this morning what I’ve always been.  There’s not been any change.  Oh, I’ve made a few vows, and had a few moments of reformation, but there has never been any real change that involved my total personality, my will, my emotions, my intellect.  I have had a few emotional experiences.  I intellectually agree with what you have said, but I have never with My will chosen to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and submit my life to Him.  If you haven’t, God has delivered you into this place today, and handed you over to this form of doctrine so that you can respond.  Will you respond this morning with obedience and say I will pour my life into the mold, let the Word of God, the will of God shape my life, obey the gospel and trust Christ as my Lord and Savior, there will be a change in your life that will be as obvious as from darkness to light, as from death to life—but you must obey.

Will you bow your heads?

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005