Bill Barnett began his teaching career in Texas. He served as head of the high school Science Department and coached several sports. However, God wanted him in full-time Christian ministry. After finishing seminary, he was called to a church in Alabama. For the past eighteen years, he was a successful pastor…
When I was nine years old, I repented of my sin and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. When I was twenty-five years old, I began to better understand my freedom from sin (Romans 6:6). Through my teenage years and into adulthood, I was taught that commitment to Christ was the ultimate in Christian living. Then, thirty-three years ago my wife and I joined a church that taught there was more to living the Christian life than commitment to Christ. This was the teaching: “The life of grace.” This study took us to verses of Scripture that we had often read. We had never seen them in the way the pastor of the church was teaching in his Sunday School class that we attended.
We began to learn that when God saved us, He did more than forgive our sins. He made it possible for me to be delivered from my slavery to sin. In Romans 6, I found five commands that would make all the difference in my struggle with anger, pride, fear and so much more. When we joined the new church and I began teaching in a high school, I knew then my need of God’s grace. In addition to teaching Science, I became the basketball coach for girls. I was learning to live by grace that backed up the words of my witness. In the arena of high school athletics, God’s Spirit used my life to challenge youth to excel in sports and life.
While teaching in high school, my wife and I both felt that God may want us to go into full-time Christian work. In time, we believed that we were called and that I needed to enter the Seminary. When I graduated from seminary in 1990, I took my first full-time ministry position. My experience in education and seminary were a great help. However, my greatest help came from knowing that I had been crucified, buried and resurrected with Jesus. I’ll share more on that later.
Eighteen years ago, God led my family to a small country church in Alabama. It was my first pastorate and I still pastor that church today. Being a pastor is sometimes very hard. We have had our share of conflict and struggle, but the Lord has blessed us. By God’s grace, we have had victory in all the difficulties. By God’s grace, He has blessed our pastoral ministry. Over the years He has led us to be evangelistic and blessed us with many souls (Top 5% of Southern Baptist Convention churches). We have seen Him build, fill and pay for a new sanctuary.
However, I see a reoccurring problem. When I ask new members if they know how to live the victorious Christian life, they say”no.” I have found that most Christians know very little about their own spiritual death, burial and resurrection. When they say “no,” I thank the Lord that I know what to teach them.
I believe in Christian education. I also believe discipleship is the key to multiplication. But believers need to be taught how to have victory over anger, jealousy and pride. If we are to strive for unity (Ephesians 4:3) we must then do it God’s way. In my new members’ class, I read this verse to each group, “I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want” (Galatians 5:16-17, HCSB).
For eighteen years, I have asked believers if they can relate to this inner struggle have ALL said “yes”! But, they do not know how to consistently find freedom from the flesh. As their pastor, it gives me great joy to point them to the biblical answer to that problem. As a husband, teacher, coach, church staff member and pastor, I have found that “Living by God’s Grace” has been my key to the abundant life (John 10:10).
As I continue to read my former pastor’s devotionals, I am reminded that we can all believe God’s word and choose God’s way. Briefly, I want to share some of the truths that the pastor taught in his Sunday School class about how one lives by grace.
Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” This verse teaches that Adam is the head of the human race and that when we entered his race by birth some things true of him became true of us–we were born with a sin nature and a death nature.
He showed us by Scripture that the sin nature we inherited from Adam is that “we think we are wise.” Romans 1:22 confirms this. In speaking of all people Paul introduces a long list of sins that are committed by the human race with, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” At the end of Romans 5:14, Paul writes that Adam was a type of Jesus. That is, when we entered the race of Jesus by being baptized into Him by the Holy Spirit, we were spiritually crucified, buried and resurrected (Romans 6:3-5).
In Romans 6:11-13, Scripture tells us how to experience our spiritual crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The passage reads:
“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus ourLord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
When we obey these five commands, we are under grace, according to verse fourteen which reads, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” The Greek word “for” in the verse can be translated “then.” So we can live under grace when we obey the five commands of Romans 6:11-13.
We obey the first command by believing that we are dead to the sin nature and alive to God. We obey the second and third commands by choosing not to live out of our the flesh–thinking we are wise. We obey the fourth and fifth commands by making our lives available to God as those crucified, buried and resurrected and by making our bodies available to God.
Bill serves as pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church, http://www.unionhillbaptist.org/
This testimony is from In Christ – David Kuykendall Ministries, Summer 2012 North Brighton, Dallas, Texas 75208 214-943-4473 www.living-by-grace.org