Christ Covenant Church
Bo Cogbill
10 September 2017
Romans 5:18-21; 6:1-14 / Membership Vow 3
Ordinary Time

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Tonight we’re continuing our way through our membership vows and focusing on vow 3.

So far, we’ve covered vow 1:

“Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?”

And vow 2:

“Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel?”

Both to which, I hope you all said, “Yes.”

Tonight we’re going to begin covering the “so what vows.”

So you believe you’re a sinner without any hope except in Jesus for your salvation, and you rest on Jesus alone to save you, but so what?

The writers of our Book of Church Order did a great job following the same line of thinking in their questioning as Paul did outlining the Christian faith in Romans.

In Romans 1-3, Paul basically lays out for the Jew and the Gentile that there is no hope in nature or in the law for them to be saved. “Good people” and “bad people” alike are under condemnation for the constant rejection of God’s revelation.

That’s vow 1.

Then, in Romans 3-5 he lays out that, though there is no hope in nature or the law, there is hope in for those that trust in Christ alone for salvation. Though all are guilty under the law, there is a justification to be had through faith alone in Christ alone.

That’s vow 2.

In two short vows, the writers of our BCO have tried to ensure that all communing members of Christ’s church affirm Romans 1-5, and then they move into Romans 6-8 to cover what you’ve heard us say over and over again.

Though salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, saving faith is never alone.

Now that you believe in justification by faith alone in your mind and supposedly in your heart, what do you do with that?

If you’re willing and able, please stand, and we’ll follow Paul’s line of thinking to that unavoidable question, beginning in Romans 5.18 and going through 6.14.

Hear God’s Word.

[5:18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[6:1] What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [2] By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? [3] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5] For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. [6] We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. [7] For one who has died has been set free from sin. [8] Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

[9] We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. [10] For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. [11] So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

[12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. [13] Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. [14] For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (ESV)

The Word of the Lord. May God bless the reading, hearing, and preaching of His Word and may He grant us all the grace to trust and obey it, and all the Church said, “Amen.”

Before we get too knee deep in this third vow, let’s remember the context of where these vows are set.

The five membership vows are in the sacraments section of the Book of Church Order.

They are there because the vows are to be made by everyone seeking full-communion in the church. This typically falls into three categories:

One category is people who have never believed the gospel and never been baptized but want to.

+ This group is to be examined by the session, take these vows, be baptized, and then admitted to the Lord’s Table as full members of the church.

Another category is people who have believed the gospel, been baptized, and are seeking to place full communing membership at a different church.

+ This group is to be examined by the session, take these vows, not re-baptized, and admitted to the Lord’s Table as full members of the church.

The last category is people who have been baptized and are seeking full communing membership at the church they are in – this category is primarily for baptized children who are ready to come to take the Lord’s Supper.

+ Just like the other two groups, the children are to be brought to the session and examined, take these vows, and be admitted to come to the Lord’s Table.

Adults, if you read the questions on the back of your worship order, and you agree with your heart, mind and lives, you’re ready to be a communing member of the church.

Parents, do your kids believe, not necessarily those words but those truths?

The adult version of vow 1 might be this:

Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?

But the kids can affirm those same truths.

Kids, listen up:

Do you know you disobey God? Do you know that He should be sad and mad at you when you disobey? Do you know that your only hope is that He would be merciful to you?

The adult version of vow 2 might be this:

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

But the kids can affirm the same truths.

Kids:

Do you believe that Jesus is your King and Master? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that Jesus saves even the bad guys, people who disobey, people like you? Do you think you can be saved by being good and trying to obey or do you think only Jesus can save you? Do you know that if you who trust Him will be saved because He died and rose from the dead to save you?

Parents, do your kids believe, not necessarily those words, but those truths?

If so, and they haven’t been baptized, then they’re ready to be brought before the session, baptized and received into the church as full communing members.

If they’ve already been baptized, and they believe those truths, then they’re ready to come to the Lord’s Table.

Whether they’ve been baptized or not, if they don’t believe those truths, then they’re not ready for the Lord’s Table.

If you don’t know if your kids believe these things, and you want a “kids'” version of those vows, see one of your elders after worship, and we’ll get them to you.

Go through the vows together, talk about the meanings of the words, and use them as a template for gospel conversations.

Use this sermon series to inform your conversations.

We’ve covered vow 1 and 2, we’ll cover 3 today, and 4 and 5 the next two weeks. Come to MC and discuss these things together.

Okay, let’s look at vow 3.

Adults:

Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

Kids:

Do you promise to trust Jesus and try to obey Him, even when it’s hard? Do you know that every time you obey it’s because of the Holy Spirit working in your heart? Do you promise to try your hardest to trust God and live like someone who loves Jesus?

The answer to these questions for everyone who trusts Jesus should be a resounding, “Yes!”

You should never be able to stop after questions 1 and 2.

That’s Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8.

You can’t just say, “Yes, I believe that I disobey God and He should judge me for disobeying,” and “Yes, the only hope I have is that He would be merciful to me,” and “Yes, I believe that He is merciful to me because of what Jesus did for me,” but then turnaround and say, “No, I don’t promise to live like someone who follows this Jesus.”

But isn’t that what some people do? Isn’t that what we find ourselves doing, at times?

There is a claim out there that Jesus can be your Savior, but He doesn’t have to be your Lord.

Some might say, “God’s grace covers all my sin, and I’m not made right with Him by following the law, so I don’t have any obligation to follow His laws.”

Do you see how dangerously close to being true some of those statements are?

Yes, Jesus is Savior. Yes, God’s grace covers all our sin. Yes, we don’t believe we’re made right by following the rules.

Some people then, will follow that line of thinking without comparing it to Scripture and conclude that we can just live our lives however we want because God’s grace is so bountiful.

Paul, either seeing this in action already, or seeing the potential pitfalls, asks the sarcastic question:

“What shall we say then? Should we just keep on sinning so God’s grace can be evident?”

He answers with about as strong a “No” as you can get. “No way!” “By no means!” “That’s insanity!”

If you believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, if you affirm vows 1 and 2, you can in no way continue as though that has no impact on your lives!

If you have been united to Jesus in baptism, by grace through faith, then you are bound to live out of that reality.

What we believe should impact how we live, and if it doesn’t, we don’t really believe it.

This is a truth that we tried to emphasize every week in SS during our Apostles’ Creed study. We confess we believe these things, but these truths that we say we believe must impact how we live or we’re just a bunch of hypocrites because we don’t actually believe them.

If you believe that you are a wretched sinner, justly deserving God’s infinite wrath for your disobedience, and yet you believe that in Christ He has been, is, and will be merciful to you because of Christ’s work and not your own, that better impact every area of your life.

How then, if you’ve received such a great gift, could you then turn around and not be merciful to others when they sin against you?

If you say you believe this, and then when your boss, or wife, or children sin against you, yet you become bitter and angry and heap out vengeance and wrath, do you really believe God has been merciful to you?

If you gossip about your boss, if you make your spouse sleep on the couch, if you impatiently and harshly berate your children, do you really believe that God has been merciful to you?

If you believe God’s grace and mercy covers your sin, then how can you who believe this continue to sin by withholding grace and mercy from others?

If you’ve taken vow 1, you’ve died to harshness, bitterness, and an unforgiving spirit.

How can you continue to live in those sins?

And that’s just a little unbelief in vow 1.

We also affirm that we believe Jesus is the Son of God and savior of sinners, but how does that belief impact how we live?

Do you believe that He saves all kinds of sinners or just some kinds of sinners?

Do you categorize the kinds of sinners you associate with?

Are greedy sinners outside of Christ’s reach? Democrat sinners? Republican sinners? Rich sinners? Poor sinners? White sinners, black sinners, gay or adulterous sinners?

Is there a group of sinners you draw the line and won’t affiliate with?

Then do you really believe that Jesus is the Son of God and savior of sinners?

How can you who are united to the Savior of sinners not be willing to bring the gospel of God’s grace to all kinds of sinners?

If you’ve taken vow 2, you’ve died to divisions and judgmentalism.

How can you continue to live in them?

Vow 2 also addresses those of us that are tempted to fall back into an obedience-based way of receiving God’s grace.

We say we receive God’s grace and rest upon the work of Jesus Christ alone for salvation, but then how do we live as His followers?

Do we run ourselves ragged trying to please God and men?

Do we always feel the need to be busy and productive or else we’re not pleasing God?

Are we involved in every extra-curricular activity because we have to prove ourselves through our children?

Do we think we have to give our children everything to be good parents?

Do we refuse to rest in Jesus on His day by not gathering with the saints every chance we get? By checking our work emails and fretting over the sporting events?

Do we refuse to try and give rest to others by demanding they serve us while we rest?

Do others feel like they have to work for your love and reward or do they feel safe and secure in your love for them?

If you’ve taken vow 2, you’ve died to a works-based righteousness, to people pleasing, to running the rat race and making others do the same.

How can we still live in them?

All of that is undergirding vow 3. We say we believe those things, but then how do we live?

If you’ve taken vow 3 or are thinking about taking it, you’re vowing to endeavor, not just to believe in your minds, but to live out those beliefs in your lives.

Isn’t that what was undergirding our OT reading of the Ten Commandments?

Who God is and what He’d done for His people required their faithfulness.

Did Israel trust the God who delivered them out of Egypt?

If so, they were to live their lives in such a way that befits people who were following Him through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

Do you believe that you were delivered from the bondage of your sin and death by the work of Jesus?

Then you should live your life as someone who is following Him through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

If you love Him, you will keep His commandments.

If you actually trust this God and believe these things, they will impact your every area of your life.

C.T. Studd said:

“If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

That’s vow 3.

If you believe these things about Jesus, you must give your whole life to Him. If you say you’re a follower of Jesus, you must give all your heart, mind, soul, and strength to following Him.

Your theology of depravity and justification and adoption must lead to sanctification.

Christ must direct your life.

Now, that’s not saying it will be easy.

C.S. Lewis said:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

If you’ve vowed these things, and you’re endeavoring, giving your all, to try and obey Jesus, you know it’s not easy or comfortable.

Being gracious and merciful to someone who’s sinned against you, is really hard, and it really hurts.

Being around sinners who don’t look or think or sin the way you do can be really uncomfortable.

Trusting Jesus so much that you don’t wear yourself out trying to earn His love can fill you with deep anxiety.

Those of you who are trying to do these things know the reality of this struggle.

You want to forgive, but you find yourself wanting to heap out judgment at the same time.

You desire to see sinners trust Jesus, but you stay in your bubble because it’s too awkward or tiring to try and befriend people so unlike you.

You want to rest in Jesus, but your Sunday is spent worrying about Monday.

You don’t understand your own actions. You have the desires to do what’s right, but in your own strength it feels like you don’t have the ability to carry it out.

When you want to do right, evil still feels so close at hand. You delight in God’s law and these truths, and you want to fulfill your membership vows, but you feel the war within yourself between your flesh and the spirit.

You’re not alone. Paul walks people just like you and me through that same ordeal in Romans 7 and goes right into Romans 8.

People who acknowledge themselves as sinners in God’s sight; people who know God shouldn’t be pleased with them, but He has been merciful to them; people who believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior; and people who believe in justification by faith alone and are endeavoring with heart, mind, soul and strength to live as followers of Jesus; people like you and me.

Paul reminds them and us that this battle, this fight, this endeavoring to live as those who trust Jesus cannot be won in the power of our flesh.

We must wage this war and walk this line by relying on the Holy Spirit, and it’s that same wisdom the writers of the BCO vows made sure to emphasize.

Remember vow 3?

Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes followers of Christ?

Do you promise to trust Jesus and try to obey Him, even when it’s hard? Do you know that every time you obey it’s because of the Holy Spirit working in your heart? Do you promise to try your hardest to trust God and live like someone who loves Jesus?

You and I, no matter how well intentioned, no matter how much we believe the gospel in our minds, do not have the power in and of ourselves to live out the implications of the gospel in our lives.

We must rely, not on our own strength, but in humble reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit, if we are going to live as followers of Jesus.

No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but breaks them daily in thought, word, and deed.

– WSC, Q82

We needed the obedience of God the Son to live, die and rise again for us, but even then we can’t obey in our own strength.

We need the power of God the Spirit, who descended upon Christ at His baptism, who was with Him through His life of obedience, and who raised Jesus from the dead.

We need the work of God’s free grace to renew us in the whole man, after the image of God, if we are to die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness.

– WSC, Q35

When you want to follow Jesus, but you feel too weak to do so, then you’re on the right track. Only when you’re out of strength can you rely on His Spirit to strengthen you for the fight of your life.

If we say we believe and our lives don’t change, we don’t really believe, but if we do really believe, our lives will be changed.

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, but sanctification is also by grace alone through faith alone, and everyone who takes vow 1 and 2 must also take vow 3.

Because you have been from your sins by the sinless Son of God, His Spirit will finish the work He began in you do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6.8).

Pray with me now, that God, by His grace, would enable us to not just believe in Jesus with our minds but to trust and obey Him with our lives.

O GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, 

You who proceed from the Father and the Son, have mercy on us. When you first hovered over chaos, you brought order there – beauty robed the world and fruitfulness sprang forth. Move, we pray, upon our chaotic hearts. Take away the sickness of our unruly desires and hateful lusts. Lift the mist and darkness of unbelief, and brighten our soul with the pure light of truth. Fulfill in us the glory of divine offices. Be our comforter, light, guide, and sanctifier. Take of the things of Christ and show them to our souls. Through you may we daily learn more of His love, His grace, His compassion, His faithfulness, and His beauty. Increase our faith in the clear knowledge of our debt having been paid, our sins forgiven, our enemy defeated, heaven opened, and eternity made ours. Oh Holy Spirit, deepen in us these saving lessons. Write them upon our hearts, that our walk be sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, and Christ loving. Help us to walk as is befitting followers of Jesus, to the glory of His name. Amen.