Summary: The law is good because it shows me that I am not

Last weekend our elders held a retreat where we spent some extended time evaluating everything that we do as a church for the purpose of seeing how we can do a better job of helping people enter into a relationship with Jesus, grow in their faith and then help others to do the same. As a result of that time we’ve decided to make some changes in what we do on Sunday mornings and I’d like to take a few minutes to share those changes with you.

First of all, thanks to all of you for helping us to get our worship time off to a great start this morning by bringing your fellowship into the auditorium prior to our gathering. For those of you who weren’t at our annual meeting last week, our worship gathering now begins at 9:25 with a time of greeting and fellowship here in the auditorium and then at 9:30 we will begin the more formal part of our worship.

The main change that we’re making on Sunday mornings is to what happens after this worship gathering during what we previously called our “Connections” time. The children’s classes will continue to meet at 11:00 in the north classrooms and there won’t be any significant changes there. But for our adults, beginning today we’re going to implement what we call a “Bible Roundtable”. We will meet in the south classroom right behind the lounge area at 11:00 and will use that time to discuss how to apply some of the things that we’ve learned in the message that morning. We’ll have some tables set up there so feel free to bring your coffee and snacks with you.

There are a couple of things that you can do to help make that time more profitable. One, is that you will notice that there is a place on your sermon outline to jot down any questions or thoughts that you might have about the message so that we can discuss them during the roundtable. You will also notice that at the end of your sermon outline there are several discussion questions that we will be talking through during the roundtable time. If you take a look at those questions, you’ll see that they are not merely asking you to regurgitate information from the message, but rather think about how what we’ve learned in the message can be applied to everyday life.

I’m excited about these changes and I want to encourage you to stay and be part of that time because all of you have something valuable to contribute. Do you have any questions?

Please go ahead and open your Bibles to Romans chapter 7 so that you’ll be prepared to follow along in just a moment.

Like we find with most things in our lives as disciples of Jesus, balance is required. And that is certainly true when it comes to God’s law.

Last week we focused primarily on one extreme when it comes to the law – becoming Pharisaical Christians who live and who judge others by a set of rules rather than living in a relationship with Jesus in a way that also transforms our relationships with others.

But especially here in the United States, it has become quite common to go to the other extreme where the law is just thrown out completely and the word “sin” is never spoken because it might be offensive to unbelievers. This seems to be especially predominant in many of the large, so-called “megachurches”. When a prominent pastor of one of these churches was asked about using the word “sinners” in a television interview several years ago, he responded with these words:

I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t. But most people already know what they’re doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don’t want to go down the road of condemning.

In another interview, this same pastor said:

You know, it's not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids—we can all find reasons. So I want them to come…and be lifted up, to say, “You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.” And I think that motivates you to do better.

Now I think we can all agree with the idea that we want people to come to church, and even more importantly to come to Jesus, in order to have their lives changed. But there are at least a couple of problems with what this pastor said. First is the idea that people are basically good people who mess up once in a while and already feel bad enough about it that we don’t need to point out their sin. And second is the idea that people can bring change to our lives merely by our own willpower and without coming face to face with our sinfulness.

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