Summary: As we near election day in America, people all over the country are clamoring for change. In this last sermon from the Election 2008 series, we will see our foundation for living as a Christian citizen and how we should live because of that foundation.
As with all the books of the Bible, the book of Romans is an amazing book. The great 20th century preacher, Donald Gray Barnhouse wrote that Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is, “the most complete diagnosis of the plague of man’s sin, and the most glorious setting forth of the simple remedy of justification by faith apart from the works of the law.” He also said, “There is in the book of Romans that which will delight the greatest logician and hold the attention of the wisest among men. And there is in the book of Romans that which will bring the humblest soul in tears of repentance to the feet of the Savior, will give him the knowledge of the true value of his soul in the light of eternity and a true concept of the dignity of human personality when it has been lifted by the grace of God.” It is a truly amazing book. Like most of Paul’s letters, it follows a particular pattern. The first part of the book is what we might call doctrinal. It lays out the glories and wonders of who God is. It also lays out the horrors and awfulness of who man is apart from God. And it’s out of that contrast that he lays out the amazing grace of salvation. Salvation solely based on the grace of God. Salvation solely provided by His initiative. Salvation solely offered through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The blood that was shed as a substitute for you and me. The blood that was shed because of God’s completely undeserved and unmerited love for you and me. That is the doctrinal message of the first half of the book of Romans. It is the basis and foundation for everything. Some people today say that doctrine isn’t important. They say it divides people and doesn’t have anything to do with day-to-day living. Well, there is one word in Scripture that goes completely against that. And that is the fourth word of the verse we just read. The fourth word of Romans 12:1 is “therefore.” It is the word that marks a transition in the book. Think of it like a big hinge. Paul is saying, “because of all of that, I appeal to you—I beseech you.” Everything that precedes this is the foundation. It is the “why”. Why do we do what we do? What is the basis for the way we’re supposed to act? Have you ever spent much time around a 3 year old? 3 year olds can drive you nuts. What is their favorite question? Their favorite question is “why”. It can drive you crazy, but they ask because they’re curious. They ask because they don’t have a foundation. They honestly don’t know why they’re supposed to do the things you’re telling them to do. It would be nice if you could send them to Romans 1-11 and tell them to read it. But most of the time adults won’t even do that. But that’s where it can be found. That’s our foundation. That’s where the why is found. And do you know what we call the “why?” We call it the gospel. The gospel is the why for everything we do. God is holy and perfect. We are sinners by birth and sinners by choice. And as such, we are worthy of only His eternal judgment. But God loves us and desires to be glorified in a relationship with us. He couldn’t let our sin go unpunished, or that would make Him unjust. So He did punish our sin. He punished it by placing it on His Son. He placed our sin on His Son and killed Him for it. Jesus willingly took our sin on our behalf and laid down His life to pay for it. He has paid the price and freely offers the gift of salvation to all who will receive Him. Not because of anything we can ever do to earn it. Not because we somehow deserve it. But precisely because we can’t earn it. Precisely because we don’t deserve it. That’s what makes it grace. That’s what makes it amazing. That’s what makes it salvation. That’s what makes it the gospel. That is the “why” that Paul addresses in the first 11 chapters of Romans. It’s the doctrine of the gospel. But then comes the hinge. Then comes the “therefore”. In the two verses we just read, Paul changes direction. He goes from what we would call doctrine to what we would see as practical application of that doctrine. In other words, how now shall we live? Now that the glorious gospel of chapters 1-11 has been applied to our lives, how do we live? This is where some of us in here need to take a step back. You need to take a step back because you have never applied the gospel to your life. If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the rest of this message doesn’t apply to you. It doesn’t apply to you because you can live the right way all you want to and it won’t make a bit of difference. You can live a good life and be a good citizen and do all the right things, but if Jesus hasn’t saved you, you are lost. And if you’re lost, nothing else matters. You won’t be able to stand before God’s judgment and say, “But God, I was a good guy.” “I obeyed all the laws of the land.” “I paid my taxes and voted for the right people.” Those might be good answers. But they’re answering the wrong question. And good answers to the wrong question are still wrong. The only question that will really matter on that judgment day is, “What have you done with my Son?” “Who is My Son to you?” If you get that right, then you have a foundation for how to live the right way. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how good you are or how well you live. Because of the gospel… because of who God is… because of who we are in light of who He is… because of what He has done for us… therefore. And that’s the “therefore” that’s in 12:1. That’s the hinge between what God has done for us and how we are to live because of it. We no longer offer bulls and goats as sacrifices. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We live holy lives. We live in a way that is acceptable to God. In a way that is consistent with the name we are called by. If we are called by the name of Christ, then we should strive to live like Him. We should allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds in such a way that we become completely transformed. So that we may, through the daily testing and trying of our faith, prove God’s will. That we may prove God’s good and acceptable and perfect will. And that is what the second part of Romans is about. That’s what’s on the other side of the hinge. That’s the therefore. We could spend months and months looking at all of the therefore-s. But this morning, in light of what’s coming up this Tuesday, we’re just going to look at one. Hopefully we know that as Christians, we are to do what 12:1-2 says. Hopefully we know that we are to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. The question is, how does that play out in day-to-day life? And the bigger question for us this week is, how does that play out in our role with government? What is God’s good and acceptable and perfect will for us as Christian citizens? We find the answer after the “therefore”. We find the answer a page or so later in Romans 13:1-7. Turn there with me and let’s read: