The Battlefield of Law vs Grace

Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne

Romans 7:4-6 (ESV)
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Every Christian is aware of the constant war within us between the law and grace. The law is rules for living, a standard of conduct, we see it as harsh and stern, but grace is freedom from the consequences of the law, it’s joy and light and eternal life. We see them as opposing forces, but Paul saw them as one package. When I get to heaven, I want to thank Paul personally for writing Romans 7, because in it we see the great apostle struggling with the very thing we also struggle with…the battle in our life between law and grace.

THE LORD IS ONE GOD

Mark 12:29-30 (ESV)
Jesus said, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

In our mind justice and mercy are opposites, but in God’s heart they are both part of His character and our journey. We love to separate things, so they make sense to us, but you cannot separate out God to suit yourself…I will take His love but not His justice. How can two seemingly opposing things actually be one?

As people we tend to go all one way or the other. So many Christians are either judgemental legalists, or all-approving liberals. We are either “Keep the rules or God will zap you,” or, “God loves you so much you can sin as much as you like, because God is love.” Neither approach is scriptural!

When you receive Christ, you are not under the law, but that does not give you license to become an outlaw.

YOU’VE GOT TO SERVE SOMEBODY

Bob Dylan wasn’t to first to say, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re going to have to serve somebody.” Paul wrote…

Romans 6:20-22 (ESV)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Slave to sin or righteousness, your choice. There is a movement in the church today which is seen as new and progressive, but it is an ancient heresy. It’s called hyper grace. It says that you are no longer under the law, you are under grace (which is true). God has paid for your sin, past present and future (which is true). You cannot sin enough to lose your salvation (which is true), therefore, sin as much as you want because grace covers it all. Paul had to address it…

Romans 5:20 – 6:2 (ESV)
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

A BIG MISTAKE

People often make the mistake of seeing grace as licence to do whatever they want: If more sin means more grace, why not just sin on purpose? But think about this: no judge shows mercy to a criminal so that he can go out and commit more crimes.

Don’t fall for this ancient heresy. Jesus did not die a horrible death on the cross to give you licence to sin. True freedom in grace is not being free to do what you want; it’s being free to do what you should! So, what then is the point of the law, and how does it all work?

1. THE LAW REVEALS SIN

The law is designed to reveal sin, but knowing what is forbidden also has a strange way of arousing sinful passions.

Romans 7:7 (ESV)
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.

Just because the law instigated our sinful passions doesn’t mean something is wrong with the law. The law is like a mirror; it shows us what’s wrong, but it’s not designed to fix it. Without the law, we would not have known, for instance, what it is to covet, or lust, or hate, but knowing what the law forbids doesn’t mean we automatically do the right thing.

When I get up in the morning, I look in the mirror and wonder who that old guy is looking back at me. The mirror is useful because it shows that my hair is a mess, but I don’t try and comb my hair with the mirror! The mirror just reveals it to me, as the law just reveals sin, it doesn’t give us the power to overcome it.

The law, then, is also like a speed limit sign that reads, “Speed Limit 60,” which may or may not slow us down. Nevertheless, that sign validates the police officer who pulls us over when we’re driving 80! Because that sign is posted, our sin is revealed, and we are without excuse.

2. THE LAW PROMOTES SIN

Romans 7:10-11 (ESV)
The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

Have you ever seen a “Don’t Touch” sign? The sign itself makes you want to reach out your hand! Likewise, sin conjures up the desire to do the opposite of what the law says.

Chuck Swindoll writes…

When the Flagship Hotel was built in Galveston, Texas, on the pier right along the waterfront, this multiple-story building was a thing of towering beauty. On the first floor was a lovely dining room with a big, expensive picture window. But the hotel manager constantly had trouble because guests in their rooms above would fish from their balconies. The heavy lead sinkers from the guests’ fishing lines would swing in the breeze, crashing into the window and cracking it. The manager was at a loss as to how to stop this.

Finally, someone suggested that the staff remove the signs from the rooms that read, “Absolutely no fishing from the balcony.” After removing the signs, people stopped breaking that window.

This is why the law is like. When we are controlled by the sinful nature, the law arouses sinful desires in us. Can it be that the law is sinful? “Of course not!” Paul answers in Romans 7…

Romans 7:12 (ESV)
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

But it shows the sinful nature for what it is – a rebellious drive set to oppose God’s design.

3. THE LAW IS RELENTLESS

When we come to Christ, we are a new creation. The Bible says…

Galatians 2:19-20 (ESV)
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The old nature, Paul explains, died with our old self. If that’s so, why do we continually wrestle with sin?

Our sin nature was like a factory that produced unrighteousness, evil, and sin. When we came to Christ, God shut that factory down. That solved the problem of future production from our old sin nature, but it didn’t address what was already produced and in circulation. Existing sin from that factory lingers in our flesh. Understand that Paul is not excusing our sin. He is reminding us that our true identity is no longer found in our actions, even if we keep sinning.

HOW DOES GRACE WORK?

Grace is unmerited blessing. We cannot deal with the problem of sin in our lives, and we certainly cannot deal with the consequences of sin, which is death. Jesus died to set us free from the penalty of sin, (Romans 6:23), which is death. That’s mercy and grace. What’s the difference? Mercy is God not giving us the punishment we do deserve, while grace is God giving us the blessings we do not deserve.

We deserve death, eternal death, eternal separation from God, but God sent His Son to die instead of us. That is mercy. We gain eternal life we do not deserve, that’s grace. All we need to do is to accept His free gift…

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You can’t earn it, you can’t buy it, you need simply to accept it. Then, because you love Him, that’s when your life changes and you want to please Him by your actions. When you marry a girl, you want to please her, not because you need to win her love, but because your actions express your love for her.

JESUS GIVES GRACE

When an adulterous woman was thrown at His feet, Jesus challenged her accusers and said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” After they slunk away…

John 8:10-11 (ESV)
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Notice the order. He did not say sin no more and I will not condemn you, He said I don’t condemn you, therefore sin no more. That’s grace, and that’s also how actions follow grace.

WE ARE IN A HOLY WAR!

We are in a holy war, every day, a war to the death. Law versus grace. Rules versus relationship. The flesh versus the Spirit. And this war is being fought every day where? In our minds.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

So, you know what is right, but something within you makes you want to do the wrong, and you choose to either give in or you choose to fight it! We have been freed from sin positionally by the death of Jesus Christ, and experientially by the Indwelling Holy Spirit, but somehow the flesh, those impulses and feelings, still rise and try to defeat us! We have victory, but it’s still kicking! Ponder this: We do not have the inability to sin, but we do have the ability not to sin.

We have the ability not to sin, we can still claim the victory over sin by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. No longer can we say, “I just couldn’t help it.” Yes, we can “help it” because of the Holy Spirit. We may not be sinless, but we can sin less! He gives us victory!

STEPS TO WINNING THE WAR

THE FLESH CAN BE DEFEATED…in fact, “the flesh” is discussed in Romans 7, but never mentioned in chapter 8 without the Holy Spirit also being mentioned.

Romans 8:6 (ESV)
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

You can’t fix the flesh with the flesh. You can’t win by trying to be better. Paul tried, but he failed, that’s Romans 7. Only when he learned to walk in the Spirit – that is, to live life under the Spirit’s power – was he lifted above the debilitating, gravitational pull of sin. So, as we yield to God’s truth and depend on the Spirit to make that truth operative in our lives, it is like putting helium in a balloon. If we blow it up with our mouths, to keep it aloft we must hit it continually. But with helium, it stays up by itself. The Spirit fills us and lifts us up to a higher level of victory than we can experience on our own. Living under God’s control, based on his Word, gives us power to have victory over sin, and our flesh cannot do that by itself.

So here are the steps to winning the battle of the mind, and victory over sin.

1. START IN YOUR KNEES

Prayer and worship allow us to yield control to the Spirit. Why do you think the enemy attacks prayer before anything else? Why is there in most churches more conflict in worship teams that anywhere else in the church? Prayer and worship give us victory and set us free!

Acts 16:25-26 (ESV)
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.

2. PUT IN THE ARMOUR OF GOD

Ephesians 6:14-18
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Every day put on the armour of God…

  • BELT OF TRUTH: commit yourself to truth, no white lies, no bending the rules for your own gain.
  • BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: being righteous, right thinking, always doing what’s right in everything you do and say.
  • THE SHOES OF PEACE: do you live at peace or are you fighting for your share and your rights all the time?
  • SHIELD OF FAITH: Do you believe God for His power, His deliverance and His blessing to defeat the arrows of the devil?
  • HELMET OF SALVATION: Are you saved, are you sure. Maybe you doubt, get it right today! You can’t win without Jesus!
  • SWORD OF THE SPIRIT: Are you reading, learning, absorbing, growing in God’s Word every single day?

Put on the full armour of God every day.

3. DON’T TOLERATE THE FLESH

So often we put up with sin, but as Cain discovered…

Genesis 4:7
sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

We tolerate sin, flirt with it, but we must flee it. Lot escaped the destruction of Sodom, by forsaking it altogether, not by getting adjusted to it. We must not put up with the temptation, because it sneaks up on us.

4. DECIDE TO MAKE A STAND

If we refuse to tolerate sin, we must make a stand. Enough is enough. I ain’t goin’ down no more. Get so mad at your flesh and declare that you refuse to give in to it anymore!

Conquering the flesh starts with a decision. Decide to do what is right. Not because you are forced to, not because you’re trying to be saved, but because you want to please your master.

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

5. FILL YOUR MIND WITH GOOD STUFF

If you know you are not strong enough, get help. Talk to a pastor, talk to me, talk to a trusted friend not some mate down the pub! Make them hold you accountable. And fill your mind, the battlefield, with things of God, not things of the devil.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Listen to sermons, listen to Worship music, read the Word, set your mind on things above!

6. PERSEVERE, AND NEVER GIVE UP

We will not win the war until we go to be with the Lord, but we can win every battle. When the Allies invaded mainland France and established a beach head, the Nazis were doomed to defeat, but they kept fighting and kicking for almost a year. The devil is defeated, but he keeps causing harm.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Paul tells us that we can have victory, battle by battle, and that…

Romans 8:37
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Sometimes we need help, we need others standing with us to help us win, joining our shields of faith together. If you find that your thoughts and feelings get on top of you, if you are struggling to lead a victorious life, if you find yourself not doing what you want to do, or doing what you don’t want to do, this is for you.

WE CAN WIN THE BATTLE OF OUR MINDS

We can win and be set free…

Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

1. Salvation: you can’t do this without Jesus
2. Anyone struggling with the flesh…not necessarily giving in but fighting it and finding it hard.

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