Home   Complete Index    2009-2010 Sermons   2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

 

Email

 

565  Sermons Available


"When We Were Still Powerless . . ."

Romans 5:1-12

Jim Davis

Our world is looking for power in all the wrong places. When the Cold War brought the Berlin wall down, we just knew we had discovered the key to world peace. However, the ethnic cleansing witnessed since the wall crumbled has revealed to us a powerlessness, which leaves us with a queasy feeling about the future of our world. The fear of terrorism hangs over our heads. We feel the threat of biological warfare as we are threatened by anthrax. Bombings and mass killings in the workplaces and even our schools fill our hearts with fear. It is as close as Tampa. As individualism runs rampant throughout the land, our homes are crumbling as relationships sour and decay.

Although money, sex and power represent the trinity we worship, they are powerless to effect the necessary changes. We are searching the vacuum of space for the key to our existence, but nothing we find out there will ever have the power to fill the emptiness we feel inside. I believe our search in outer space really says more about the vacuum within our own hearts than anything else. We have failed to discover the key ingredient for our existence and survival. We are looking for a place to which we can flee when our world crumbles as a result of our abuse of it. Are we not recognizing our powerlessness to save ourselves as our world crumbles around us?

In the decade of the 90's we have seen more devastation caused by humans and natural disasters than we have since World War II. We have possibly seen more devastation in our world in the last decade than has occurred in the whole 20th century. Our lives seem impotent to effect the necessary changes to bring an end to it.

As children kill one another in our schools, we ponder the question of how can we solve the problems or even see the problem before it explodes into violent behavior. We are thinking that there is not really much we can do. We are simply left asking ourselves why these things happen. These things happen because our lifestyles have left a huge vacuum inside, which have left us feeling powerless and hopeless to fill.

There is a real emptiness inside of us that reveals the impotence of human power, money and sex. Many used Y2k to sensationalize the message of the gospel. Predictions of world wide catastrophic economic collapse ran rampant throughout 1999. Bank tellers reported that an unbelievable amount of people withdrew all their money out of the banks in cash in preparation for Y2k. Of course, the predictions of the false prophets failed. But try to imagine what would have happened if it had occurred. How long would it have taken for the killing to begin in the streets? There was a news report about how people were fighting over bottled water when hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in the early 90's. Imagine what would happen if our economy did collapse. You can already see the headlines of St. Petersburg Times: "Woman Killed Over Loaf of Bread!" "Teenager Killed in Fight at Gas Pumps!" "Bank Customer Kills Bank Teller Over Money Lost!"

We have developed creative ways of living with the pain. Entertainment, condoms, abortions, euthanasia, homosexuality, divorce, money, self-assertiveness or and drugs are some of the solutions our society has come up with to solve our problems. We have become so astute in dealing with the pain that we have convinced ourselves the lifestyles these choices promote are the means to happiness. Every one of these solutions leaves lives devastated by their choices. They leave lives void of feeling. As we become desensitized to the pain, self-destruction is inevitable.

Our Inability to Make Things Right

The book of Romans seeks to reveal our inability to make things right without God. In the first chapter Paul reveals what happens when God turns us over to the desires of our own hearts.

Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)

Living to fulfill our desires creates the vacuum we are unable to fill. Every term in these verses describe our desire and failure to fill the vacuum inside. Our inability to make things right and solve our problems leaves us helpless and hopeless. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness usually leaves us feeling bitter. Bitterness only compounds the problems as it motivates us to begin fighting for our rights and what we think we deserve. The battle rages within our hearts, within the church and in the world.

Religion has become a part of the problem. As Paul speaks to the religious people in the context of this problem he says, "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. As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:9-12 NIV) We have sought to bring people to Christ for justification, but often they have no desire for sanctification. Sanctification has to do with living our lives for God. When we seek justification without sanctification the vacuum remains and our problems are compounded.

There are a lot of hollow Christians. They are burned out and only a shell of existence remains. They are tired and bored with church. They are seeking to do right without God's grace. They have been seeking God without God’s help. They are teaching classes, attending classes, attending the social functions, living good lives, but they are not relying on God. They are trying to do right apart from God’s help. They are running on the flesh. They have given God some of their money, efforts and time, but they have not given God control of their lives. They are busy. They are practicing religious activities while living the whole of their lives on the world's terms. Their hope is in their fleshly accomplishments and they are left disappointed. They are asking God to bless their efforts, but they are not allowing God to direct their lives. They are not filled with the Spirit of the living God.

Churches try to fill the void in member's lives through buildings, entertainment, and activities. The gospel is preached as a means to health, wealth and prosperity. We convince people they can start a business as a ministry to people and become wealthy as they serve God.

Although we are impotent to fill the vacuum ourselves, we are not helpless. God is hoping we will turn to him when we come to the end of ourselves. God allows us to fail as we search the endless vacuum inside our hearts for answers. He is trying to get us to realize the answers must come from a source other than ourselves. Our help and our hope must come from God. When we come to the end of ourselves it is a perfect time for God to enter our lives.

Romans 5:5-10
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (NIV)

Only God’s Spirit can supply the power we need. Paul says, God’s "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5 NIV) As we seek to give God’s Spirit control of our lives through faithful obedience to Christ’s powerful message of salvation God fills the void inside.

1 Peter 4:11-14
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed . . . (NIV)

Motivation for Change

The right time for God to enter our lives is when we realize our powerlessness. The book of Romans is about God's power for the powerless. It is about God's enabling power for the weak. It's about help for the helpless. It is about hope for the hopeless. Romans' is about the power of God to salvage our lives through the message of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:16-17) Romans is about how God makes us right.

Romans 5:8-10
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (NIV)

Christ's power is available to make us right. Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God by his powerful resurrection from the dead. (1:4) It's the power manifested in his resurrection, which demonstrates the power of the message he proclaimed. That same power seeks to raise us from a life of deadness. That power is available through faith in God through Christ. This power is available for living sanctified lives under the Spirit’s guidance.

Romans 5:1-6
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (NIV)

When we live in the power of God we discover the joy of living. Nothing but the power of God can bring hope, peace and happiness in a world described in the following verses.

Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)

You must see the attitude shift in these words. Paul says, "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Hope, peace and joy come as we refocus our world on God. Sin reveals our hopelessness and God brings hope. We are even able to rejoice in difficult times. We will continue to suffer in an evil world, but we have joy in the midst of suffering. Suffering demands perseverance. Character is developed as we persevere through trials. Character is the means by which we know we are sanctified in Jesus Christ. Sanctification sets our lives apart so the vacuum in our hearts can be filled by God’s powerful presence.

Joy comes as the process of sanctification fills the void in our lives. Our lives must change when we come to Christ, but allowing God to change us will not necessarily change the circumstances under which we must continue to live. Sin brings death into our world and suffering comes as our world dies to God's presence. Paul writes, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men . . ." (Romans 5:12 NIV) Living sanctified lives in a crooked world is difficult and painful, but it can be done in joy as we live with the strength God provides.

The power of sin is tremendous. Through the trespass of one person, sin and all its devastating consequences entered into our world. (5:12, 17) It only takes one sin to focus our lives on self. The desire to fill just one sinful urge has the power to destroy you life. One sin can deny God's power to salvage our lives. One sin took Eve's mind off of God and focused her life on her desires. As a result of one trespass in Eden death reigns.

God is more powerful than sin. Sin brings death but God imparts life.

Romans 5:17-21
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (NIV)

Conclusion:

Only God can fill the vacuum in our hearts. The time is right for many of you. You know that you have been powerless to effect the necessary change. It is when you are without strength that God can provide.

God's grace makes us powerful when we are weak. The power of God's grace reigns in our lives as we allow God to make our lives right.  However, God's power can only salvage our lives as we allow his grace to reign in our lives through obedient faith. When this happens we experience the peace of God.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
(NIV)

 

Home   Complete Index    2009 Sermons 2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

Email