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The Difficulty of Going it Alone

Romans 3:10-19

Jim Davis

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. They picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost." God listened patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well! How about this? Let's have a man making contest." To which the man replied, "OK, great!" But God added, "Now we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam." The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

Committing our lives to God is hardest of all things to do. We tend to hang on to our problems tenaciously, as we try to solve them with our own strength and might. The difficulty is in battling our own will in order to allow God to have His way. But how far can we really go without God? Man so desperately desires to be the master of his own fate and the captain of his own soul. The first three chapters of Romans are about our inability to do so.

God Silences the World

The last fifteen verses of Romans chapter one describes a world so dead, the only way to live with the stench is to live in isolation. In Romans chapter two, Paul describes the religious world as being no different. There was only contempt shown for God by the religious and non-religious alike. Paul comes to a conclusion in chapter three:

Romans 3:10-19
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." "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (NIV)

The first three chapters of Romans show us humanity's dilemma. Paul reaches climax of our hopelessness by saying all are lost. We all have experienced the futility of living according to our own thinking. We are lost with no hope of saving ourselves, no matter how positive or negative we choose to think there is no solution to the dilemma. God has silenced the world by allowing us to wallow in its own hopelessness as we realize our inability to live up to his standards.

Declaring our unrighteousness is not an indictment against our dignity as much as it is a declaration of our inability to live right without God. It is a declaration of our being lost without God. I have no power to right the wrongs of the past, too often, I have no power over the circumstance of the present, and I certainly have no control over the future. God is the only One who can put my life on the right path as he provides forgiveness for the past, the strength of His grace for the present, and hope for the future.

Headed Toward Self-destruction

There is a mysterious power within each of us, which seeks to make us the focal point of our world. Paul makes a charge that all are "under sin." (Romans 3:9) Paul sees sin as a controlling power. No one is exempt. Sin is an empire wishing to control our lives. If we surrender to this dominating force self-destruction is inevitable.

It is amazing to study about the civilizations of past generations, which vanished from the earth. Most of those civilizations disintegrated because they totally focused on themselves. They succumbed to the self-centering power of sin.

Romans 3:10-18
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." "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (NIV)

Sin is in our character --- no one does right.
Sin is in our mind --- no one understands.
Sin is in our heart --- no one who does good.
Sin is on our lips --- tongues practice deceit.
Sin is in our feet --- feet swift to shed blood.
Sin is in our eyes --- no fear of God in their eyes.

Our hearts are bubbling over with our own self-destructive ways. We are consumed with sin because we have chosen to go our own way. Isaiah wrote, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way . . ." (Isaiah 53:6 NIV)

It is the evil from within, which seeks to destroy. Jesus said, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:18-19 NIV)

God Is Not Asking Us to Do the Impossible

Romans 3:20-24
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known . . ." It is impossible for a person to live a perfect life even through their best efforts. It doesn’t matter whether the law is written on their heart or on tables of stone a person cannot live 100% right. God has silence the world by making it aware of its inability to do what is right on its own. God cannot hold us accountable for something we are unable to do. Therefore, he has provided a means for us to be right with him without having to depend on our ability to keep the law.

Imagine a person dying and meeting Christ in judgment. God says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into Heaven. You tell me all the good things you have done, and I will give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in".

"Okay," the man says. "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart." "That's wonderful," says Christ, "that's worth three points!" "Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." "Terrific!" says Christ. "That's certainly worth a point." "One point?" "I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." "Fantastic, that's good for two more points" he says. "Two points!" the man cries. "At this rate the only way I can get into Heaven is by the grace of God." "Congratulations! That will do it."

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." God can make our world right again through his power exerted through Christ for all who believe. God can make our lives right if we choose to believe and follow Christ.

Power for Living Found in God

The powerful solution to life's problems is found when we focus on God. Don't forget the simple truth of Romans: God's power salvages lives --- in spite of circumstance. Of course, you have to believe in it! But the power is not found in the strength of our personal faith, but rather in the one in whom we believe --- God.

A life without God's power is a life headed toward self-destruction. The word sin simply means self-destruction. It briefly describes a life without God's salvaging power. We may create ingenious ways to cope with the reality of our demise, but the end result will be destruction. The creative power of God is the only thing available for reconstructing our lives.

We say, "Have confidence in yourself and you can accomplish whatever your heart desires." When I was in grammar school this philosophy was taught by the story of a little train going up a steep mountain. The mountain looked to steep, but the little train keeps saying to itself: "I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!" It finally accomplishes the seemingly impossible. Positive attitudes are certainly better than frowns and negative thinking.

There is power in a positive mental attitude, but it will take a bit more than a good attitude to salvage our lives. We say, "Smile and the world smiles with you." We may leave the impression that all you have to do to solve your problems is develop the ability to smile through every difficulty. It certainly may make your world appear to be brighter, but a smile has no power to solve your real problems.

Some people think the power to make the world a better place comes through the ability to see what is wrong with our fellowman and the world. There is no power in one's ability to see what is wrong. There is no value in seeing the seemingly impossible and becoming a prophet of gloom. These people will convince you of gloom and doom, if you stay around them long enough. They will make you believe in their gloom and doom.

Most of us have lived at both extremes at different points in our life. There are those times we have laid it all on the line in hopes of making a difference; only to walk away fully disappointed. In those times you may swing to the other extreme thinking it useless to try in a world turned against everything right. Cynicism may convince you there is a certain comfort at least in the ability to see what is wrong. You may begin to think those with positive attitudes are unbalanced --- and often, they are as unbalanced as you.

There is a problem with those at either extreme. The positive thinker thinks his positive thinking and hard work will make a difference and the negative thinker thinks the situation is hopeless. Amazingly often, both are right. One is focused on human potential and the other is focused on the impotence of humanity. There is a certain amount of truth in either view, but either view leaves the world powerless to do what is right without God.

Preaching the gospel while not trusting in God’s power to salvage lives is blasphemy. A preacher walked into a congregation determined to give all of himself. He was determined to make a difference. Four years later, he walked out realizing things couldn't be worse. He saw the same problems in the next congregation he worked. Four years later, he walked out, realizing he didn't have the power to raise the dead. He learned something during those eight years. He learned only God has the power to resurrect the dead. It was in the third congregation where he saw God resurrect the dead. No, no --- there were no miracles --- only a change of focus --- he began to focus on what God could do. He began to focus on what God was doing in impossible circumstances. It wasn't really his focus making a difference; it was God. God's power can resurrect dead churches.

We can think whatever we will ourselves to think, but unless our thinking is focused on God’s power to salvage, our potential will never be reached. Christ resurrection is the central focal point of the gospel. The resurrection makes a statement about God's powerful ability in circumstances as impossible as death.

My cousin died this past week. His mom tried to resuscitate him after an apparent heart attack. She was as unsuccessful as the man in the beginning of the lesson that was told by God he had to create his own dirt in the man-making contest. The limitation of our powers without God is obvious. This is why Paul opens the book of Romans declaring the power of God through the death of Christ.

Romans 1:1-5
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (NIV)

It is the power of the resurrection, which manifests God's powerful ability to resurrect us from dead circumstances. Christ came into the world to resurrect each of us from the deadness of our schemes for living. God's power through Christ makes the difference.

Romans 1:16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (NIV)

This is why you need to invite your friends to our lectures on the book of Revelation beginning Friday. They will be able to see hope for the hopeless.

Conclusion:

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run, and not be weary: and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

 

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