Summary: Sermon about the basics of the Christian life.
DOES CHRIST MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
INTRO: Can you tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian simply by observing their lifestyles? You might say, “Sure, just look at who goes to church and who does not.” after all, you find two types of people on Sunday morning: those who sleep in, and those who go to church. Although church attendance appears to be solid criteria, can you honestly admit that you have never stayed home? On the other hand, how many times have you reluctantly dragged yourself out of bed, sat in the pew and found your mind wandering from the lunch menu to the afternoon ball game?
The traditional lines separating Christians and non-Christians have become blurred because many of those who claim to follow Christ exhibit no change in behavior. Recent statistics agree that little difference exists in the rate of divorce, abortion, alcoholism or AIDS among those who do and do not attend church. The end result is that people question the validity of Scripture and the value of the church. People want to know: does Christ make a difference?
In Romans 8:1-11, Paul affirms at least four changes in the life of believers that distinguish them from everyone else. By comparing our lifestyles with each change, we can know whether or not Christ has made a difference for us.
I. OUR CONDITION.
Paul begins this passage by stating the most beautiful words know to Christianity, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation (judgment) for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). This statement guarantees the forgiveness of sins for those who have trusted in Christ and made Him Lord of their lives. Here is a LIFETIME GUARANTEE!
Earlier, Paul reminds us that all people are sinners (3:23). Everyone starts in the same condition. If you have ever had an unclean thought or spoken a white lie, you are a sinner. But God sent His Son to be a sin offering (v. 3). Jesus, who never sinned, received the penalty that you and I deserved. When God judges the world, he will see two types of people: those in Christ and those apart from Christ.
II. OUR CHARACTER.
A second indication of the difference Christ makes in our lives involves a change in the Christian’s character. Paul claims this truth when he states “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (v. 2). When Paul used the word “law” in this instance, he refers to the controlling power of the Holy Spirit versus the power of sin and death.
Before becoming a Christian, we exist within the dominion of disobedience. We know right from wrong and can resist evil for a period of time. Yet some temptations are too strong, and the unbeliever falls into sin.
When people come to Christ in faith and obedience, the Holy Spirit delivers them from sin’s controlling influence. Does this mean that a new believer will never sin again? No, but it does mean that they have a new strength to defy temptation.
III. OUR CONCENTRATION.
A third area by which Christians are distinguishable from others includes the realm of our minds. What thoughts compete for your attention? According to Paul, believers “have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” and are characterized by “life and peace” (vv. 5-6). On the contrary, those without Christ are “hostile to God” and “cannot please God” because their mind is “controlled by the sinful nature” that “does not submit to God’s law” (vv. 6-8).
Common sense says that your actions will not change unless your thoughts change first. So the power of the Holy Spirit not only transforms our character, it also converts our concentration. Once Jesus comes into your life, He rearranges your priorities.
IV. OUR CONFIDENCE.
Finally, Paul offers a word of encouragement and a promise of God. He summarized the persistent hope of all believers by concluding (see v. 11).
What is the basis of your hope? In what source of authority do you place your confidence in the life to come? Those without Christ have one and only hope: that the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian witness are wrong. Their authority rests in the imagination of their minds like so many religions of the world.
In a nation that clams to be a melting pot, Christians must stand apart from those who would dissolve our differences. Biblical absolutes oppose the relativism of our culture, and authentic Christians reflect the truth of that faith. The next time someone seeks to distinguish those who accept Christ from those who reject Him, you can know in which group you fall. In Christ we experience a genuine change that is visible to all.