This week Pastor Keith Welton looks at overcoming apathy in the Christian's life by looking at Romans 6.
We live in an apathetic and indifferent society. Last year the book of the year award for Christiainity Today was Overcoming Apathy by Uche Anizor. Apathy is indifference, a lack of passion and purpose.
In the book he goes through and dissects our culture and shows how apathy is seen. Examples from pop culture abound.
Seinfeld, the television show, what some call the greatest show ever. It is a self-proclaimed show about nothing. It wasn't about nothing, but the things it was about were insignificant and petty. Wasn’t about marriage, family, doing good or becoming a better person. It was about the minutiae of life (getting a good parking spot or bowl of soup, annoyance of close talkers, and maintaining one's high score in Frogger) (p. 20). Focused on nothing of significance. Part of the humor.
Anizor also talks about how perturbed society gets over petty things. GAP, the clothing store, changed its logo in 2010 and the strong blowback was staggering. “The new logo is disgusting, horrible. The new logo is a monstrosity.”
Interestingly, Anizor talks about how his television watching and constant bombardment of entertainment and how this made him care less. He says I knew in my heart that there were important things in the world to care about. However, I couldn’t bring myself to care deeply enough about them or move toward them.
He says it is the same in the Church today. The grander the truth, the less it seems people care about it. In the book he says his “main concern is spiritual apathy, or indifference toward the core things that Christians should care about” (p. 11).
We have seen how there is inversion in life, things get turned upside down and it doesn't go well. In Romans 1 people invert the order of God, they worship created things rather than God, and they receive in themselves the penalty for what they do. So we have to have things in the right order. And that means we need to pursue things that are most important. We ought to desire those things.
We are looking at Romans 6 today. I realize we should technically be in Romans 5. We have holidays coming up, and I wanted to make sure more people were here for these messages on Romans 6, because it is a stirring call to rise out of apathy and pursue Christ. It is a call to come alive.
Grace as motivation not an excuse
In chapters 3 through 5, a detailed treatment of the gospel and how we are saved is given. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.
In chapter 5 Paul points out the triumph of grace over sin. “Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.” It is a powerful thing to rightly understand the work of Christ and what he achieves for us. The hope that is there and the confidence we can have with God.
Grace abounded all the more. God's grace can cover our sins, all of them. Praise God. But spiritual apathy creeps in and says, well if that's the case why bother? Why fight the temptation of lust and immorality? Why stop lying?
The issue he is addressing here is like when you first realize what a buffet is. I'm not big on eating out. We are pretty picky about what we eat. But my son turned 13 and we did a retreat together. We ended up north of Macon and I took him to Buckners. It is southern cooking, it is good, and it is a buffet.
You sit at a table with a lazy susan on it and take whatever you want. They keep bringing out what you want. When we first sat down my son was a little confused. He picked up a few things and then turned to me and said, can I get some of that? Is it OK to get that?” I said, “Yes, sir. Eat whatever you want and as much as you want.” The lights went off, the scoops got bigger, the plates began to mount. He realized we could eat all we could eat.
We walked out those doors after two hours in pain. I wasn't sure if I needed to repent of my gluttony or boast about the price-per-pound amount of food we achieved.
When you realize the gospel, and that we are saved by Christ, apart from works, there is the logical conclusion that “wait, I can sin all I want and it is OK.” Paul is addressing that issue here.
That means grace is an excuse to sin. I can do whatever I want; it's paid for. I can eat all I want; it is paid for. We have to see that such an attitude is going back and living in the very thing that brought death. Don’t do that!
By no means! This is emphatic. There is emotion here. There should be emotion here. The logic in this letter is brilliant. There is a reason law schools have their students read what is written in these chapters. It is logical, it is clear, it is persuasive. We need to understand that logic. But to an apathetic culture, don’t miss the emotion. There is an exclamation point.
Let's not be indifferent to errant thinking and errant pursuit of Christ.
Perhaps one of our greatest temptations as believers is to take advantage of grace. Do you have anyone in your circle of friends who is encouraging you to pursue Christ, or are most people around you apathetic. This is why we need church! We need people who are stirring us to live out our faith and to live for the things Jesus calls us to.
Jesus is our life and not just a part of it
Immediately goes into a section on baptism. Why do we go from abusing sin to baptism?
Baptism is an important part of the Christian life. It is the initiation rite into the church. It is an act that proclaims you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and have turned from the world. In it one identifies with Christ’s death in going under the water. You identify with his resurrection in coming up out of the water. It's a reminder that just as water cleanses the body so also the blood of Jesus cleanses our soul and washes away our sin. If you have trusted in Christ you should be baptized. It is the sacrament Jesus gave his followers as a way to profess their faith in him.
Those in this church would have followed Christ in baptism. He is trying to show how their faith in Christ changes everything. Their walk with Christ involves everything. It is all of life and not just part of it.
The connection is that through baptism we identify with Christ. Identify with his death. Identify resurrection.
We died with him, we live with him. Our self has been crucified with him. We have been set free. It means Christ is the starting point for all that we do.
Christ is our life. Not just a part of it. He is Lord of all or he is not Lord at all. Language of reigning. Is he reigning in our lives?
Live for Christ and not the flesh
Declared righteous. One of the questions that comes up is: How are we made righteous? Do we possess the actual righteousness of Christ? Is his righteousness infused to us? Cheesy bread with my pizza. The cheese is inside the pizza crust. Brilliant! Is that what happens to us? So don't tell me I am doing anything wrong. I am righteous in Christ.
The righteousness of Christ is not infused into us. Rather, we are declared righteous. It is a judicial verdict rather than an infused substance. We are declared righteous. A criminal who has broken the law and had his penalty paid is a guilty lawbreaker, but because his debt is paid he is in line with the law, and therefore righteous legally. Jesus paid our debt, and though we are guilty, we are justified through his work.
Justification is an act. That is a legal term. And this is where the term sanctification comes in. I know these are big words but they are important. I don’t want to dumb things down. I want to disciple you up! Sanctification is the process of becoming more holy. I am declared just/righteous. I am not actually, but I want to give my all for the one who died for me. I want to live for him.
The word of God here is instructing us, that as we have been declared righteous, let's run hard after the one who saved us, loved us, redeemed us. Jesus saved us from the world so let's not go back to it. Saved us from sin, let's not live in it any more. We want to live for him, not just in part of life, but all of life. How can we know the amazing love Christ has shown to us and the incredible sacrifice he made for us and then become indifferent to it.
We live with him. WE do all things for him. He set us free from sin. Do you remember how yucky it is to live in sin? Television and movies make us feel indifferent toward sin. Don’t let it numb you to the pain that is there.
When you marry someone your relationship changes. Marriage is a covenant, a promise, that you make to each other before God and also in the presence of witnesses. They know what you said. When that happens, it changes your relationship with that person. It’s appropriate to trust that person in ways you did not trust them until they outwardly and expressly stated their intention. They go from just another person, not just a friend. They are your soulmate. How much more so if we have trusted in Jesus’s death for our sins, and resurrection from the dead, should we live for him?
It’s not something where you just go to church, or just do a little Bible study. He is your everything. When someone is your everything you don't want to do things that displease them.
He gives us purpose in all we do: how we work, how we date, how we go to school, what we do and what we avoid. You can be saved from all the things that are deadening your friends.
And so now, because we are justified, we want to make every effort to live for Christ. To live for the one who died for us. One day we will be completely righteous. Until that day we make every effort to live for him.
Sanctification is a resolution and not an accident
You will never accidentally happen into righteousness. It must be cultivated and pursued. You will never just happen to be an elite athlete.
Christ died for sinners. Now sinners die to sin so that they might live to Christ. Sixteen references to dying to sin in twenty-three verses.
Romans chapter 6:12, you have the first moral imperative given in the whole book! This is the first command. Six chapters. About 140 verses. All indicative of what God is and has done. Now being called to do something.
Consider. It is a way of thinking, a way of calculating. Consider what you just did.
Consider yourself dead to sin. Ever hear the expression “you are dead to me”? I don’t want anything to do with you. I don't care about you. You don't matter to me. We need to consider ourselves dead to sin. It's a mentality, a way of thinking. If something is causing you to die, you don’t want anything to do with it.
It is a wartime mentality. Instruments or weapons of un/righteousness.
The old self must be crucified.. A slow agonizing form of death. It is not instantly wiped out, but gradually done away with. A struggle, indeed a battle, that confronts the believer throughout life (Edwards, 162).
Don't let sin reign in your mortal body. John Owen in The Mortification of Sin. Be killing sin, lest sin be killing you.
Think radically about your pursuit of Christ. “Radical” for our culture likely means we are just beginning to pursue Christ. Think of sin as something that isn’t just “not the best” or “wasn't a good idea.’ Think of it as something that deserves killing.
Offer yourselves to God, not to the flesh and sin. You are always feeding something.
Don’t make excuses. I remember in college, I was a physical therapy major, I took a class on health and wellness. I had an old professor and one day a student said he saw him walking down the road in the pouring down rain. He asked him if everything was ok. My professor said he was just fine, and that he walked every morning rain or shine, even if it snowed. He said if he came up with an excuse one day he knew he could find another excuse the next day, so he never missed. He wanted to go all out. What is your attitude toward pursuing God?
So what is your mentality? Do you believe you are in a spiritual war or do you live like you are on a vacation? Sin is a cancer in our soul and we have to fight it.
If you have cancer, you want to do whatever you can to stop it. You want to starve it and suffocate it. If something causes those cells to replicate you want to eliminate it. How are you doing spiritually?
If you fill yourself with the things of God, you don’t have time for Satan. If you fill your life with the important then you will not be consumed by the trivial.
Some areas to consider:
Entertainment. Talk about it like it is a right. Rough week, I need to binge, watch a five-year show in one weekend. What is that feeding? Are you watching things that are numbing you to the greater and more significant parts of life? A weekend of football watching.
Work. God created us to work, but the entitlement culture leads us to believe it shouldn’t be that hard. God’s word says it's through painful toil that we will eat. Are you embracing God’s design? Your flesh will war against you on this.
Day off. God created us to work and rest. Resting is an act of worship.
Christ’s resurrection is thus presented not to indulge the readers in dreams of future glory, but to exhort them to moral resolution here and now.
Let’s talk about some spiritual disciplines
Connecting with others to read the Bible and pray. I’m constantly amazed at how hard this is to do in the American church. People are lonely and isolated and unwilling to make sacrifices for this.
One of the greatest reasons people don't do this is because the group is too ____ [whatever]. Too long. Too short. Too many people. Too small. Too young. Too much emphasis on ___. People want to order their fellowship like they order a Starbucks coffee. A venti dark roast pour over with Almond milk, with a hint of hazelnut, cane sugar, and I need it ready as soon as I get there.
And, if you don't do it like I want then I will never come back.
It’s the absolute particularization of individual preferences. Unless you get absolutely what you want, you don’t go back because someone else can meet that need. And that attitude will destroy relationships. It will destroy your pursuit of God.
It’s an attitude that refuses to sacrifice. Cruise Ship mindset over aircraft carrier. There is a battle going on and right now the world is winning.
At some point you just need to do it. My kids tell me all kinds of things about taking the trash out. It’s too far, too full, too late, too early. You just don’t want to do it. And you just need to do it. With fellowship it’s the fight of faith. It’s the opportunity to feed our soul.
You can’t engineer your friends and fellowship. Relationships are dynamic, unpredictable and messy, and that’s what makes them so wonderful.
It’s amazing that many choose not to do anything at all rather than not have their preferences met. No church is just right so I won’t go.
**More comfortable disobeying God than sacrificing preferences.** That is apathy toward God.
People have very sophisticated ways of saying “I ain’t even interested.”
- Church. Here is an exercise. Write down what culture says about church. Then write down what the Bible says about church. Which of those two things are you more influenced by?
- Don't forsake the gathering. Heb 10:24
- Daily. Acts 2.
- Weekly (Ex 20, 1 cor 16:2).
- Leading others. What are you leading others to do? People want to lead others to do things they are not doing. That’s hypocrisy. Few churches are in a healthy place right now.
It’s interesting how people will talk about wanting to reach others for Christ, and yet are not willing to do much to reach them.
Coming alive to Christ leads to coming alive. Being who God has created us to be. Apathy leads to death. Christ leads to life: to caring about others, caring about what is important, caring about how to change, caring about what we have to say no to.
Who do you know who is apathetic and fun to be around? They are dead to the things that ought to matter. But we can repent of that. Because of Christ and his work for us we can find forgiveness and come alive to what matters. We have to believe. And we have to start feeding that seedling.
Apathy and unbelief cause us to treat our faith like a mutual fund. You invest your money into several different streams so if one doesn't pan out you are still OK. It means when you lack faith in one particular investment so you spread yourself out. We are not to give a little to Jesus and a little to other areas. Faith means we go all in on that. To put our money in Jesus we take it out of other things. Following Christ means letting go of other things, other priorities.
Life is too busy. Simplify.
- What is your attitude toward pursuing Christ? What excuses are you making for not pursuing him?
- How does your life show a resolve towards the things Jesus calls us to? Are you more influenced by culture or God’s word?
- How does knowing Christ make you come alive? How have you experienced this before?