True and Worthy Citizens of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27-29)

So here is what I want you to do: conduct yourselves as true and worthy citizens of the Anointed’s gospel, so that whether I make it or don’t make it to see you, I will at least hear that you continue to stand, united in one spirit, single-minded in purpose as you struggle together for the faith in the gospel. Don’t be alarmed in any way by what your opponents are doing. Your steadfast faith in the face of opposition is a sign that they are doomed and that you have been graced with God’s salvation. And now, you have been given the privilege of not only believing in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, but being chosen to suffer for Him as well." (Philippians 1:27-29) Being a true and worthy citizen of the gospel sounds daunting to me. Why? Because I know me. “Worthy” is not a word that comes to mind in describing myself in relation to the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. There are plenty of days in which unworthy seems like the best fit. Yet Paul calls on the Christians in Philippi to conduct themselves as worthy citizens of the gospel, so this must be something we can accomplish with God’s help. God won’t ask us to do what His Spirit won’t empower us to do.

I realized that one reason this sounded daunting was that I was thinking I had to be worthy enough to become a citizen, but that is clearly not what Paul is saying. My righteousness – my self-earned worthiness – has been and always will be garbage (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). I am a citizen of the gospel because Jesus is worthy and He has covered my unworthiness on the cross. Paul is talking about what it looks like for a citizen to live in a way that ascribes worth to the one who granted us this citizenship. So this is not a question of salvation. It’s a question of discipleship, of following Jesus in an honoring way.

Last week we talked about how Paul did not just say, “to live is Christ” and then leave a vague phrase hanging in the air. He made it specific: serving Jesus through fruitful labor (1:22) for the growth and joy of others in their life with Christ (1:25). Fortunately, Paul does the same thing again when describing what it means to be a true and worthy citizen of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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By the time Paul had arrived, the cult of Caesar had become the state religion. The good news (euaggelion – what we call evangelism) for the Romans was about Caesar as a god, a savior and redeemer of the world. (You see on the screen a statue of Statue of the Emperor Octavian Augustus as Jupiter, from the time of Jesus and Paul. The coin that Jesus told people to “Give to Caesar” had Caesar represented as divine).

This announcement was specifically ‘good tidings’. If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s what the angels brought to the shepherds in Luke 2. Though it’s the same word, with Jesus it’s for all people, not just Romans, and it’s about a Savior who is Christ the Lord. It won’t just bring the Pax Romana (the Roman peace through conquest), it will bring peace on the entire earth for those on whom God’s favor rests. It won’t come through a sword that kills others, but through a cross on which Christ dies so that we might live.

When we talk about the True Gospel, we are talking about the truly good news if a saving and redeeming God revealed in Jesus Christ.

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Paul is referencing the dual citizenship that the Philippian Christians have. The Philippians were both citizens of Rome and citizens of Heaven. In Philippi, it was just assumed that they were to conduct themselves according to the laws and customs of the state. That’s how you honored the emperor.

Paul is not introducing a foreign concept. They knew how to honor the emperor by observing their duties, and they experience the ‘good news’ of Caesar’s reign by taking part in the privileges that went with being Roman. Now they needed to apply what they knew to their citizenship in Heaven.

"Roman colonies were little bits of Rome planted throughout the world, where the citizens never forgot that they were Romans, spoke the Latin language, wore the Latin dress, called their magistrates by the Latin names, however far they might be from Rome. So what Paul is saying is, “You and I know full well the privileges and the responsibilities of being a Roman citizen. You know full well how even in Philippi, so many miles from Rome, you must still live and act as a Roman does. Well then, remember that you have an even higher duty than that. Wherever you are you must live as befits a citizen of the Kingdom of God.” (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible)

The Philippian people used to say, “Caesar is Lord,” and they took for granted that their lives would reflect their lord. The principle had not changed. The lordship had. Now they would say, “Jesus is Lord,” and their life would still reflect their Lord.

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UNITY: Standing united in one Spirit

As the Holy Spirit unites our spirits in the service of Christ, we “stand firm,” a word that described a Roman military formation in which the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder and back to back with their shields up and their spears outward. It was the strongest possible defensive position. There are at least two important clarifications concerning Christian unity:

We are united by the Holy Spirit of God, not by our spirit or our effort. I promise you, if you stay here at CLG long enough, things will get tense. You will be offended by what someone says or does. You will “butt heads” instead of “rub elbows.” You will find there are people who are sooooo different from you that you have trouble making small talk, or people whose personalities just clash with yours.

This will happen at any church. But the Holy Spirit works within us to unify us around the person and work of Jesus Christ and result in something that goes beyond merely liking other people. It’s genuine Christian love – the agape, selfless service for and honoring of others. When this type of community happens, it showcases the power of God at work. “Really? You all go to church together? I wouldn't have expected that…” Right. We are united by the Holy Spirit in the cause of Christ.

This isn’t unity for the sake of unity, because people can unite around false or evil things. It is clear throughout Philippians and Paul’s other writings that false teaching and hypocritical people undermine the gospel, shipwreck the faith of many, and destroy unity within the church. So this isn’t a feel good, “why can’t we all just get along” kind of avoidance that looks like unity but actually undermines it. Paul is talking about the unity we experience while struggling together for the message and the cause of Christ. This brings us to…

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 PERSEVERANCE: Striving Together for the Faith in the Gospel

 The word for "striving" is another army word. (Remember, Philippi was largely populated by ex-military, and this language would have resonated with them.) ‘If united’ describes their purposeful formation, striving describes the activity. Soldiers fought as this unit. Maybe today, when we think of ‘together in a united front,’ we think of the iconic pictures from the civil rights movement when people linked arms are marched in the face of opposition, or (on Superbowl Sunday) we think of teams united in a common cause in the face of great difficulty.

As Christians, we are part of a team that perseveres to defend, proclaim, and live out the “glad tidings” that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

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BOLDNESS: Faithfulness through Opposition

The word translated “alarmed” (ptyresthai) is not found elsewhere in the entire Greek Bible. In Classical Greek, it referred to timid horses startled by something unexpected, perhaps even to the point of stampeding. Paul tells the Philippians not to get spooked. Be bold!

Note why boldness is required. When biblical writers say, “Don’t be discouraged or scared,” they are not saying that there is nothing discouraging or frightening in the Christian life. They’re saying the exact opposite. We are apparently going to experience times that will draw us toward these things, but we are to resist. God promises presence and comfort to His people during these times - and that’s exactly what Paul is passing on here.

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SUFFERING: Privileged to Suffer for Christ

The word ‘privileged’ or “granted” (echaristhe) is from the Greek word for “grace” (charis). We get our term Eucharist from this word. Its use other places in the New Testament gives us an idea of the tone or the mood associated with the word.

  • Luke 7:21, Jesus gave sight to the blind
  • Romans 8:32, God will freely give us all things
  • Philippians 2:9, where God gives Jesus a name above all names
  • 1 Corinthians 2:12, where the Holy Spirit helps us know the things given by God

With all those wonderful things in mind - we have been granted (or graced) the privilege of suffering for Christ. This is not about suffering for being obnoxious or suffering because of sin. This is suffering because our commitment to faithfully following Christ has put us in situations that we could have avoided had we turned out back on our faith –but we didn’t, and we suffered for it.

. . . for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed… rejoice that you participate/share in the sufferings of Christ so that you will be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. ( 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12ff)

Around the world, Christians are giving their lives. In more and more countries in the Western world, Christians are losing businesses and facing fines and jail time for standing on the truth of God’s Word. What would Paul and Peter say to us? Don’t be surprised. As hard as it seems, rejoice. This is an opportunity for your faith to be refined, and in that refinement “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) will be revealed.

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So what does it mean to be a true and worthy citizen of the gospel?

  • It doesn’t mean you need to be perfect.
  • It doesn’t mean you need to never offend (though we try not to), or always says the right thing at the right time (though we try to do that too)or never overlook anyone (though it would be nice to always get that right too).
  • It doesn’t mean you need to meet everyone’s expectations, or never have a bad day, or have no regrets, or have skills our culture values.
  • It doesn’t mean you need to be a Christian superhero.

A true and worthy citizen of the gospel stands firmly united by the Holy Spirit with other Christians while persevering and even suffering for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.



I owe a lot in this entire series to Matt Chandler’s book on Philippians (To Live Is Christ); a fantastic website called Precept Austin; an article entitled “The Theme and Structure of Philippians, by Robert C. Swift; N.T. Wright’s Bible study Philippians for Everyone; IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Keith Krell’s “The Bottom Line” at bible.org; and plenty of other sources I have failed to record. Shoulders of giants….


Sanctification: A Parable (Romans 6-8)

 CHAPTER ONE: The Ruins*

You live in a broken, run-down house. You’ve been here as long as you can remember. You know nothing else. For a while you were able to at least keep it looking nice on the outside, but it’s always been falling apart.

The landlord seemed like a great guy at first. (2 Corinthians 11:24)  He allowed you to skip rent. He let you host all the parties you wanted – he even helped fund more than one. Sure, your friends trashed the place, but you trashed theirs, so it all seemed fair in a messed up kind of way.

But you slowly realize that the landlord is a hard owner. You thought he was your friend. He isn’t. The landlord keeps promising that you will have a better house and a better life if you will just do one more thing: fix the roof, mend some pipes, hang new drywall, repaint, rebuild the foundation that keeps sinking further into the sandy soil. But all those things cost money that you don’t have, so you borrow money from the landlord. Nothing ever pans out. You end up spackling over holes in the wall and wrapping duct tape around leaking pipes, but you know your house is going down. (Jeremiah 19:13)

It doesn’t help that you are really sick. You feel as run down as your house looks. Maybe it’s the asbestos in the walls, or the lead in the paint, or the leaky pipes in the stove. There’s something toxic about this house. It’s killing you. But as far as you know, this is all you have. This is the only place to live. You hate the person you have become in the house you’ve allowed to fall apart.

Your house is in ruin. Your life is in shambles. And to make things worse, you realize one day that somebody is following you. Literally. He’s one step behind you everywhere you go. When you are finally able to catch a glimpse in a mirror, you realize… it’s you.

Not just like you, but a zombie version. You look like one of the Walking Dead. By the end of the day, he’s got a hand on your shoulder. The next morning, he drapes his arms around you and makes you carry him everywhere you go. He stinks. He’s dead weight. (Romans 7:24)

You call your landlord hoping he can do something, but he already knew. “Yeah, they always show up in my houses.”

“Who is it?”

“It’s you. It’s just the real you. The dead you.”

“Why did it show up just now?”

“Oh, it’s always been there. You’ve been dead for years. You just couldn’t see it. ”

There’s nothing you can do. The landlord doesn’t care. Most of your friends hang out somewhere else, and the ones that show up don’t know what you are talking about. They don’t see the dead you. They try to help do things like paint the siding that is falling off the side of the house. (Jeremiah 8:11)  It’s tough for them to paint. They carry the dead with them too, and they don’t even know it.


CHAPTER TWO: Bring Out Your Dead!**

The next day a man, a stranger, walks onto the porch. “Bring out your dead!” he calls cheerily. (John 11:25)

You don’t watch Monty Python, so you don’t get the joke. “What makes you think there are dead here?”

“I can smell it on your breath; I hear it in your words (Romans 3:13); I see it in your eyes. Oh – and it clings to you like a monstrous burden. This house has killed you. Your landlord cracked the gas lines and installed the asbestos. Your landlord made sure there are no detectors for smoke or gas. Your landlord likes his tenants dead. But you were meant to be alive. (John 5:21) And I can get rid of that body of death and make this house livable.”

“How can I trust you?”

“Why do you think you even know that you are dead? You thought you were tired and sick. I showed you what was real. I opened your eyes. You needed to know. (2 Timothy 2:26) You can trust me because I bring you truth that will set you free.”

 “Why me?”

“Why not you? I care about you. I seek and save people and situations that seem hopeless (Luke 19:10). Plus, I would like to move into this house (1 Corinthians 6:19), and where I am, there is no room for death and ruin,” the Man said with a twinkle in his eye (1 Corinthians 15:55).

“Where would I go?”

“Why would you want to go?”

You sit quietly for a long time. Your father always said you got what you deserved and never helped with your house or your health. Your landlord pretended to be your friend while guiding you down a road to death. Your friends had taken their dead selves to their dead parties on dead city streets.

You look around at the shambles all around you. You remember the landlord’s harsh, condemning voice (Revelation 12:10). You feel the dead weight of your sins, failures and inadequacies on your back (Isaiah 43:24). You’ve never known anyone who seemed to care about you and your life. He offers a new start. He offers a new identity. He offers to make all things new (Revelations 21:5).

Finally you whisper, “I have no future. I have no hope. Everyone offers me death. There is nowhere else to go. You are the only one who has ever offered me life (John 6:68). So…yes. Let’s do this. I and my house are yours.”

The Man stands up and lifts my dead self off my back and onto his. “Well done. You have asked for resurrection, and I will give it. I’ll pay what you owe and get the deed to the house. I’ll be back in three days, because resurrection is neither cheap nor easy. But when I return, I will show you what life is supposed to look like.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)

You watch him until he is out of sight. You wonder what he is going to do with all the dead he takes upon himself as he walks through the town. Then you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

When you awake at dawn three days later, you know everything has changed.


CHAPTER THREE: ReBuilding***

You have a hard time believing the changes. No more debt. No more creditors knocking at your door. Now the rain stays outdoors and the plumbing stays in the pipes. Your front door actually latches now. It’s…amazing. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But the Man – you’ve started calling him the ReBuilder - has a bigger plan than you realized. He wasn’t going to just uncondemn the house and sweep up the garbage. He is planning to turn your shack into a mansion. When he first told you, you said, “Awesome! Go right ahead!” But the ReBuilder smiled and said, “Not without you. It’s our house. We work together. You need to give yourself to this project” (Romans 12:1)

You’ve got nothing to offer once again, but the man is ready for that too. He gives you a blueprint and all the tools you need. He gives you a fund to draw from for building materials, expert advice and help, etc. Since he’s the architect, designer, builder and inspector, He will be available every day – leading, guiding, protecting, correcting.

But you have to set your alarm, get out of bed, put on the tools, pick up the lumber, swing a hammer, get splinters, and break and rebuild a few things. You are going to invest some sweat equity into this house (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Some days are better than others. You notice other houses in the neighborhood that are also being transformed by this… ReBuilder… and it’s easy to be jealous of other houses that look nicer– or proud of the ones the look less advanced. The ReBuilder just shakes his head. “Build your own house with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). I’ll worry about the others.”

You get hurt; you get tired; you put walls at the wrong place and shoot yourself with the nail gun. You question the ReBuilder’s blueprint. You argue when He shows you something that is not up to code.

You sometimes think it was easier just to have the old house. You occasionally find your old landlord crouching outside your door (Genesis 4:7), wondering if he can hang out for a while. “Take a break,” he says. “Don’t take life so seriously.” Some days you actually invite him in and you hang out. It sometimes fun for a while, but it never ends well. You feel worn down again, almost as if your dead self was back, hand on your shoulder, whispering emptiness and loneliness into your ear. Your landlord always ends up roaring through your house, demolishing everything. (1 Peter 5:8)

But the Rebuilder helps you resist, and the old landlord has to leave. (James 4:7) More than once he has picked your sneaky Dead Self up by the collar and thrown him out on the street. You apologize to the ReBuilder when this happens. He hugs you. He doesn't yell (1 John 1:9). His forgiveness is a gift too (Ephesians 1:7).

But you have to spend days –even weeks - cleaning up the mess. You pick up all the stuff you can, and the Rebuilder gets the places you can’t reach and corrects the damage beyond your ability. He helps you make a plan to resist and avoid this situation the next time (Ephesians 4:27; 2 Corinthians 2:11).

There are some days you wonder why the ReBuilder even puts up with you. But he never leaves you on your own. He remains true to his word. He holds you to the code but patiently helps you when you miss the mark. He teaches you how not to shoot anyone with the nail gun. You know you are in this together, that he is for you, that he will restore you and help you even when you are at your weakest (Psalm 51:10-12).

So every day you arise and build, and you find increasing satisfaction in the affirmation of the ReBuilder and the pleasure of a job well done (Nehemiah 2:17-18; Matthew 25:23).


CHAPTER FOUR: ReBuilt and Alive**** 

It’s not all work. He fishes with you on still waters. You both shoot hoops at the YMCA and join friends at Buffalo Wild Wings for March Madness. Being around him restores your soul (Psalm 23) even while your callouses thicken. You realize that you are absorbing his ideas, his language, his priorities, his way of living life abundantly (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Others join you. Some bring their dead; some have been set free. Some still live in shacks; others are working with the ReBuilder on mansions. The Rebuilder welcomes them all. He didn’t come to condemn the dead to their bare cold shacks. He came to save them and rebuild their lives (John 3:17). You invite even more to hang out with you. (1 John 3:10)

And slowly but surely, your house is becoming a mansion (Philippians 1:6). You find that you easily congratulate others whose houses are flourishing, and you compassionately help neighbors who are struggling. The blueprint makes more sense than it used to. You look forward to your alarm clock. The old landlord still comes around, but more than ever you see through his lies (John 8:44). He rarely makes it past the bottom step of the porch. Your Dead self stays on the sidewalk.

You notice a neighbor starting to work on his house. He looks miserable. You take him some water one hot, miserable day (Mark 9:41) and find out he found a blueprint. “Oh,” you say, “Did you meet the ReBuilder?”

“No,” says your neighbor. “Why would he want to help with my house? It’s horrible. I am going to fix it up enough so the ReBuilder will notice. I think I can make mine nicer than yours. Once I make it good enough, I’ll be ready for the ReBuilder.”

You say, “This isn’t Field of Dreams. This isn’t, ‘If you build it, he will come.’ It doesn't work that way. Put your tools away. Stop trying to do it yourself (Isaiah 64:6). Unless the Rebuilder builds it, your labor is useless (Psalm 127:1). It’s making you angry and annoying your neighbors, and the next big storm is going to put you back at square one.” (Matthew 7:24-27) He returns to his works. His Dead Self turns and smirks at you as you walk away.

You find that, the longer you work with the ReBuilder, more than a few note that you are starting to look more and more like Him (Ephesians 5:1). You are humbled and encouraged; your friends used to comment on the eerie similarity between you and your former landlord (John 8:44; 1 John 3;10). This is much better.

“But,” they say, “what’s with the ongoing work? You told us this was a gift.”

“Working side by side with the ReBuilder is also a gift,” you say (1 Corinthians 1:9). “I don't deserve to be his apprentice. Who am I to swing a hammer on this house? Who am I to cut expensive trim, and build a strong chimney? I brought nothing to this project, but he gives me everything I need to build great things (Colossians 3:1-12).

“ He has given me far above what I could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). I just wanted to know Him and understand what kind of person gives grace to the failures and life to the dead (Philippians 3:10).  I just wanted to be near him and be like him. And then all these things,” (here he waved his hand to show his house, his tools, the work of his hands, the campfire where he sat with his friends) were added unto me (Matthew 6:33). This, my friends, is what happens when obedience responds to grace. This is life” (John 10:10; Romans 8:12-14).




Among other horrible things that happened during Bible times, captive soldiers were sometimes forced to carry a dead body until the rot of the corpse killed them. The Roman poet Virgil wrote: “What tongue can such barbarities record,
 Or count the slaughters of his ruthless sword? 
Twas not enough the good, the guiltless bled.  Still worse, he bound the living to the dead:
 These, limb to limb, and face to face, he joined; 
O! monstrous crime, of unexampled kind!
 Till choked with stench, the lingering wretches lay, 
And, in the loathed embraces, died away!”  Commentators note that,  when Paul was looking for an analogy about how much he hated the part of him prone to sin, he most likely built from this image when he wrote:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24)



Christ sets us free from that dead weight that’s been killing us. Why? Because He can, and he loves us.  We just need to ask. Then we are set free from that body of death. Here’s how Paul explains it in Chapter 6 (beginning in verse 2).

"We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life… We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin… "



Sanctification is Spirit-driven obedience as an act of worship.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

But a living sacrifice wants to get off the altar sometimes. That old body of death is hanging around.

“On the one hand, I serve the law of God in my mind; but on the other hand, the carnal side of me follows the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

This is an image for the process of sanctification. Initially, we are set apart (sanctified) when we are justified by Christ. It changes our identity. We are no longer spiritually dead, enslaved to sin. Now we are alive and renewed. In an ongoing manner, the justified person who submits to God's will is becoming conformed to the image of Christ. Colossians 3:1-12 gives a great description of how the process takes place:

Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Think about the things in heaven, not the things on earth. Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God.  Christ is your life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. 

So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. In your past, evil life you also did these things. But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you.

This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.  In the new life there is no difference between Greeks and Jews, those who are circumcised and those who are not circumcised, or people who are foreigners, or Scythians. There is no difference between slaves and free people. But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.

God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

See this tension? Though we are freely justified, we still have some work to do. Fitting the mold of goodness doesn’t come naturally. God will continue to do a work in us through the Holy Spirit, but there are some things we do as well. We see this tension other places in the Bible as well.

  • God works in us for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
  • God helps us bear good fruit (John 15:4).
  • God equips Christians to do his will (Hebrews13:21).

At the same time the Bible also states:

  • We must work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12).
  • We work to supplement our faith with virtue and good works (2Peter 1:5-7).
  • We commit to abounding in the work of the Lord (1Corinthians 15:58).

Justification is a declaration, but sanctification is a process.



"We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life… We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin... “ (Romans 6:2 and following)

Baptize meant to "put into" or "immerse" so that the thing baptized takes on the properties of the thing into which it was baptized. Garments were "baptized" in dye so that the garments took on the color of the dye. Cucumbers were “baptized” so that they became pickles. Christians absorb the righteousness that comes from Jesus’ death and resurrection. But part of devotion is making a choice about to whom you will offer yourself.

Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him. In the past you were slaves to sin—sin controlled you. But thank God, you fully imitated the pattern of our teaching. You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness.” (Romans 6:16-18)

This pattern of our teaching” refers to melted metal cast into a mold and conforming to the impression that is sunk or cut in the mold. They used to pour themselves into sin, and they conformed to its pattern. Now they are choosing to pour themselves into the truth about Christ, and they conformed to it. They looked like goodness.

"If we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him…You should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive with God through Christ Jesus. So, do not let sin control your life here on earth so that you do what your sinful self wants to do. Do not offer the parts of your body to serve sin, as things to be used in doing evil. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used in doing good. Sin will not be your master, because you are not under law but under God’s grace."  (Romans 6:1-8; 11-14)

 “To live” in something was to be wholly given to it. An ancient writer, Aelian, wrote: “The Tapyrians are such lovers of wine, that they live in wine; and the principal part of their life is devoted to it.”  Not only do we soak up righteousness (which is a passive word of transformation)  We can be wholeheartedly devoted (an active verb).



Building on a previous definition, Sanctification is Spirit-empowered obedience as an act of worship in response to grace. When we see our righteous works as responsive worship to a God who so deeply loves us, our obedience, our righteous acts, become a profoundly personal expression of trust in God. Conformity to the image of Christ follows commitment and obedience. We aren’t obedient in order to be justified; we are obedient so we can increasingly enjoy the life we have been given in and through Christ. Sanctification reminds us:

  • We need renewal and transformation all the time. Be humble.
  • What we choose to do matters. Be purposeful.
  • God does not coerce; God invites. Invite others.
  • God’s Spirit and ongoing grace are vital. Be dependent on Him.
  • A sanctifying God loves unsanctified people. Extend this grace to others.

Justified (Romans 2-5)

Have you ever tried to justify yourself?

  • “The sun was in my eyes.”
  • "My alarm didn't go off!"
  • “I had questions about my homework assignment but it was late and I didn’t want to bug you or my classmates…”

 Justification is what happens when we give a reason for something we did. In a deeper sense, we justify because we want to remind ourselves and others that we are good. Justification is our way of proving that what we do is okay – so we must be okay too. In a more formal sense, justification is a legal term. Something that is justifiable is shown to be “just, right, or reasonable.” (Merriam-Webster). It’s that which absolves us of guilt. If the scales of justice were truly balance, our reasons/excuses would counterbalance the bad things we’ve done.



When Paul wrote in Romans 1 that Gods’ wrath is being revealed against godlessness (our broken relationship with God) and wickedness (our broken relationships with others), he gave quite a list of things:

  • sexual activity outside of God’s design
  • injustice
  • criminal activity
  • lusting for more
  • mean, aggressive attitudes
  • gladness when others suffer
  • intentional homicide
  • the love of quarrelling
  • Deceit
  • Exploitation
  • Craftiness
  • Destruction of reputations and character
  • Fighting God’s will
  • Enjoying doing wrong and hurting others
  • Ego and Arrogance
  • Creatively devious
  • Rebellion against authority
  • Unwilling to think and act rationally
  • Untrustworthiness
  • Heartlessness/mercilessness
  • Enablement of all the above

In all these cases, the people were worshipping “the creature more than the creator.” It’s idolatry. An idol is something other than God that you think justifies your life choices – or even your life. By the end of Romans 1, Paul’s Jewish readers were probably nodding their heads and thinking, “Oh, yeah. Let the judgment roll! Godless, idolatrous heathens…” Then Paul starts Chapter Two this way (and I paraphrase Romans 2: 1-8):

“All of you Jewish people who are reading this and judging? You do the same things as part of the habit and routine of your life. Why do you think you should avoid being judged? It appears that you think God’s kindness, mercy and patience are insignificant and contemptible. If you thought they mattered – if  you understood the depth of your depravity and the cost of Christ’s love – you would have repented from your sins. You would be changed. Instead, you’re stubborn, unrepentant, people who choose idols. You are going to face the same wrath of God as the people you so smugly judge.”

What were these idols, these justifications? We see the list beginning in Romans 2:17:

  • “But I’m a Jew”
  • “But I trust/rely on the Law”
  • “But I am close to God”
  • “But I have lived in God’s will and I approve of it fully”
  • “ But I knew every detail of the law”
  • “But I am a guide to the morally blind”
  • “But I am a source of radiance to sinners in darkness”
  • “But I am a wise instructor of the foolish”

This is not a bad list in and of itself.  But it had turned into idolatry of a different kind. These were things the Jewish readers thought were “just, right, and reasonable” and would make them okay:

  • “You call yourself a Jew” – the Idol of Nationality
  • “You trust/rely on the law” – the Idol of Moralism (Moses)
  • “You brag about being close to God” – the Idol of Identity (Abraham and the covenant)
  • “You know his will and approve of it” – the Idol of Self-Righteousness
  • “You know ever detail of the law” – the Idol of Knowledge
  • “You are a guide to the morally blind; a source of radiance to sinners in darkness; a wise instructor of the foolish” – the Idol of My Amazing Self

All the things that they thought made them “just, right and reasonable” - their opinions of themselves, their reputation, their place in their community and in the eyes of God – had all become idols that were showing them to be unjust, wrong, unreasonable, and frankly unlikable. No wonder Paul says: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2:24). The fact that God’s name was blasphemed would hardly have surprised them. But the fact that God’s name was blasphemed because of them? That’s…intimidating. Depressing. Deflating. That will knock your spiritual legs out from under you.

Paul did not sign off his letter at that point. He’s working his way toward a gospel message of hope and restoration. But they wouldn’t understand the beauty of God’s justification until they saw the worthlessness of their own attempts at justification.


We can be like the Roman Christians. We can hear about the Romans 1 sins and be in complete agreement: “That is so wrong.”  We want the picket lines and sermons and blogs and news stories and campaigns and conferences about abortion, and sexual sin, the breakdown of the family, unjust taxation and the murder rate in Detroit and exploitation. Of course God’s wrath is for that. Thank God I’m not in their position. But you are. We all are.

  • We have harmed children (with our words and attitude)
  • We have given in to sexual sin
  • We have contributed to the brokenness of our own family
  • We have used other people
  • We have been dishonest with our money
  • We have gossiped
  • We have chosen to be blind and irrational about our choices
  • We have been untrustworthy
  • We have secretly taken pleasure in the embarrassment or failure of others.

Paul says God could use our own deeds will judge us (Romans 2). All God would have to do at Judgment Day is play back a record of the moral standard to which we held others and judge us by it. 

  • All the times we said, “That’s wrong. That’s gross. That’s out of God’s will or design. That’s against nature. That’s ignorant. That’s mean. That’s self-centered and cruel. That’s using people.”
  • All times I said to my wife, “Be more patient with the kids.”
  • All the times I told my kids, “You are not using your time wisely!”
  • All the times I have thought, “He needs more self-control.”
  • All the times I thought, “Wow, she was really inconsiderate.”

God could just take my quotes and match it to my life. Guilty. Sometimes, God name is blasphemed because of us. Our justifications won’t matter.But look at my theology and doctrine. My great emotional experiences! My spiritual disciplines! My good moral decisions! My godly kids!  My reputation! Those make me okay! I am surely justified.” If you think that, you are an idolater. You are worshipping what you have done and what you have to offer; you are trying to justify yourself and make yourself righteous and acceptable to God and others by your own merit. But Paul says (Romans 3:10 and following):

  • “No one is righteous” – legal condemnation of guilt
  • “No one understands” –blind to truth
  • “No one seeks God” – bad motives
  • “All have turned away” – broken wills
  • “Our throats are open graves” – words betray inner decay
  • “We are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery mark our way, and we don’t know peace.”  - we leave a trail of destruction
  • “We have no fear of God.” – if we did, we would take life more seriously

We have to understand how unjustifiable we are before we can understand the beauty of what Christ offers to us. We must fully acknowledge that we are the worst sinner we know (that’s how Paul saw himself in 1 Timothy 1:15). Charles Simeon, a preacher from the 18th and 19th century, wrote, “There are but two objects that I have ever desired…to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And I have always thought that they should be viewed together.”

This bring us to the good news of genuine justification.

But God has a way to make people right with him without the law, and he has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people righteous through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be justified by his grace, which is a free gift.

 They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair, as in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins.  And God gave Jesus to show today that he does what is right. God did this so he could judge rightly and so he could make right any person who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26)

This is the “gospel, or “good news.”  It literally means “good herald.” It’s from the word angeloi, which referred to a man whom the emperor would send from a battlefield to declare victory.The gospel is not advice to show us what we are supposed to do to be righteous and justified; it's the good news of what Christ has done so we can be righteous and justified.

On our own, we are dead in our sins; we owe a debt that we cannot pay; we can never do enough to justify our life.  But Christ paid the debt. This good news is for us, but it’s not about us. It’s about Christ. Because of the sacrifice of a Christ who loves us, all our sins, flaws, failures, inabilities, and weaknesses are not only balanced, they are swept off the scales.

In Romans 4:7-8, Paul quotes David from Psalm 32. “Blessed are those whose wrongs have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the person whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” Paul and David did not say, “Blessed are those who do not sin, and who through obedience avoid sin.” They said people were blessed when their sins were covered, and God did not charge to their account what they deserved.

Christ has made it possible for every terrible thing we do in life to be made right. He will balance the legal scale of justice. Because of Christ, we are made right (“righteousness”) and good. That is our only justification.

Since we have been justified through faith in Christ, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.  Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory.

 But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us.  As a result, the blood of Jesus has made us right with God now, and certainly we will be rescued by Him from God’s wrath in the future. If we were in the heat of combat with God when His Son reconciled us by laying down His life, then how much more will we be saved by Jesus’ resurrection life? In fact, we stand now reconciled and at peace with God. That’s why we celebrate in God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed.” (Romans 5:1-2; 8-11 - The Voice)