Reviving My Sense Of Identity (Rom 1:1-7)

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Pastor Mark Mikels – October 18, 2009
(Romans 1:1-7)

Intro … Today we begin our “Walk through the Book of Romans” – the letter God inspired the Apostle Paul to write to the believers in Rome – the letter that I’m calling for this series of messages: “Sourcebook for Revival”.

How many of you got a chance to read through the entire book last week (show of hands); how many of you read the passage of the week – the first seven verses of chapter one (show of hands)?

As I read through the entire book the other day, two words came to mind … the words exuberance and extravagance.

Romans was not written in a casual way – Paul’s passion for Christ and for His Cause is obvious on every page, his writing frequently falls prey at times to an almost stream-of-consciousness style where one idea suggests another and that one another until he has produced a huge run-on sentence that leaves both him and us exhausted … and exhilarated.

And in keeping with that exuberant spirit, Paul’s language is frequently extravagant – he speaks in no “ordinary terms” about this man Jesus – this man who has been declared to be no less than the Son of God Himself; he writes of no small accomplishment – this “salvation” provided by Christ’s death on Calvary; he exhausts his dictionary in verbal streams of praise to the ONE who loved him and called him and who even as he wrote was preparing a heavenly home for him.

Romans is a book so filled with life that we ought to consciously keep a firm grip on it when we read it lest it get away. Its very style (to say nothing of its content) can serve to arouse and revive any believer who has become distracted or lazy in their faith – any believer who is in need of a jumpstart to their life as a Follower of Jesus Christ.

May that jumpstart begin with this very first message that I have entitled … “Reviving My Sense Of Identity”.
In the first seven verses of chapter one, Paul addresses what I’m calling …

Today’s Key Issue …
The IDENTITY Problem that PLAGUES many Christians.
They don’t know WHO or WHAT they are!

“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. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

Identity is the key to everything … If you don’t know who you are and what your purpose in life is, then everything is put on hold until that question is settled.
If you are mistaken about who you are and what your purpose in life is, then a lot of time and energy is wasted as you make decisions and pursue courses of action that are mostly counter-productive.

An awful lot of Christians don’t have a clue who they really are and what their actual life purpose is … It’s been true from the very beginning of this Church Age – Paul addressed it right off the bat in this letter he wrote to a body of believers that he had never met.

Check out Today’s Key Scripture …

Today’s Key Scripture …
“To all in Rome who are LOVED by GOD And CALLED (to be) SAINTS.”
(Romans 1:7)

Actually, if we cut out all his “Stream of Conscious” Exuberance, Paul’s first main thought in this letter is simply this …

“Paul (verse one) – to the all in Rome who are loved by God and
called (to be) saints.” (verse seven)
I put the words “to be” in parentheses because they are not actually in the Greek but are added by the English translators to make the passage flow more smoothly … However, they can be misunderstood.

The words “to be” might suggest that all Christians are not yet saints but are called to “aspire” to sainthood. That view of “sainthood” has persisted through the centuries – we have ordinary Christians and then we have some (a very few) who can be called “saints”.
That’s not at all what Paul is saying here … Paul is, in fact, saying the exact opposite … Paul is saying that “All Christians ARE Saints” … Called by God out
of the world to be His Saints … divinely authorized and identified by Him as “Saints”.

I am and should be forever known as Saint Mark … not in recognition of anything that I have done but as an acknowledgement of the marvelous thing that God has done on my behalf.

And so it is with all in this room who have come to embrace the love of God as expressed in Jesus Christ … You are all SAINTS!

Now that designation leads quickly to the first of three key questions that are raised by this seven verse passage …

Key Question #1 …
WHAT does it mean to be a SAINT?

The Greek word is “Hagios” and means …
Answer: “SET apart for HOLY USE”

Three times Paul uses this word in these opening seven verses:

* verse 2 … He mentions the “Holy Scriptures”
“the gospel he promised beforehand through his
prophets in the Holy Scriptures.”

* verse 4 … He refers to the “Spirit of Holiness”
“who through the Spirit of Holiness was declared with power
to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.”

* verse 7 … The Saints (“Holy Ones”) in Rome
“to all in Rome loved of God and called (to be) saints”

Holy Scriptures – Holy Spirit – Holy People

You could say that’s God’s dynamic trinity in the world today …

“Holy people filled with the Holy Spirit living in accordance
with the Holy Scripture.”

Drop any one of the three out of the picture and you have something ineffective and perhaps even destructive …

So as a Saint of God I am …
“One who is set apart for God’s Holy Use”.

That recognition leads naturally to our Second Key Question …

Key Question #2 …

WHAT (then) is my HOLY USE?

What is it that God wants me to do with my life?
How can I and how will I serve Him best?

Now the answers to that question can be as numerous as the people asking it but there is one general answer that applies to us all and that’s the one I would focus on this morning – the answer Paul shared with the saints in Rome.

Answer: God would have me live a life of …
(Romans 1:5)

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)

Paul could have easily said …
“to the obedience that comes from (true) faith”

“FAITH” – that’s one of the three key words we talked about a bit last week.
It means “to rest myself completely upon” – specifically to rest myself and my eternal destiny completely upon Jesus Christ and his Work on the Cross.

Now it follows pretty naturally doesn’t it that if I am “resting myself completely upon, trusting myself completely to” someone (namely Jesus) then I will seek to follow his instructions completely. I will just believe that He knows what’s best for my life.

And that’s exactly the point that Paul is making … he says that he is in the business of “calling people to the obedience that comes from faith”.

Too often we simply call people “to faith” as though that is the end of the journey – as though that is the sole purpose of our proclamation when in fact, that is only the means by which a person is put on the path … faith is simply the way we begin the journey … the journey itself is what counts.

That’s why God calls us “saints” not just “believers”.

We are people who through the exercise of faith have been “set apart for holy obedient living”. That Divinely-extended call is really a call to “obedience” as much as it is a call to “salvation”.

Amazing that by the seventh verse of his letter, Paul has already made that clear.

Now for the third and final question of the morning …

Key Question #3 …
HOW will such “Faith-Generated Obedience” IMPACT my life?

Answer: The SAME way it impacted PAUL’S LIFE.
(Romans 1:1)

Three specific impacts revealed in the opening verse:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and
set apart for the Gospel of God.”

“He was SERVANT “

Here Paul uses the most servile term ever used by the Greeks to designate a slave – he was a “doulos” … bound to his master (as Kenneth Wuest says in his commentary) “by such strong cords that only death could break them”.

Obedience begins with the understanding that I am no longer in control of my own life – I no longer “call the shots” – I don’t even have a vote. I am under the ownership and direction of Jesus Christ.

If I have some kind of problem following the directives of His Word, my only recourse is to “get over it”.

Paul was a servant – completely owned and directed by Christ Jesus. He knew it and rejoiced in it.

“He was SENT “

The word “apostle” comes from two Greek words – “apo” meaning “forth” and “stello” meaning “sent” … thus an apostle is one who one who is “sent forth” by
and on behalf of another – in this case by Jesus Christ.

Now that’s exactly what Jesus told Paul he was going to do after he dramatically confronted him on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:15 (Jesus to Ananias) …

“This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles
and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

So it is with us … “We carry Christ’s name – we identify ourselves with him – wherever we go, we go as representatives of Him to whom we belong.
And now the most strategic of the three …

“He was SEPARATED (set apart)”

Here the idea is not so much that he was separated (or set apart) “from” something as that he was separated “for” something – for the “Gospel”
(the good news)

vs.2 He was separated for the Good News promised in the Scriptures.
(the garden promise of a Savior; the bronze snake in the wilderness; the water that gushed from the rock; the crucifixion depicted in Psalm 22; the suffering servant identified in Isaiah 53; the Palm Sunday prophecy in the Zechariah)

vs. 4 He was separated unto the Good News declared in the Resurrection
“Christ is indeed the Son of God”

vs. 5 He was separated unto the Good News demonstrated in People’s Lives
“We received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles.”

So it is to be with us … We are “set apart” by our commitment to the Truths contained in the Gospel … the only “news” worth talking about!

Final Thot …

KNOWING who I am and what I am is the first step toward
BEING what I should be and DOING what I should do.

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