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Killing Sin

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November 27, 2016 Sherman Community Church Sherman, NY Killing Sin Good morning. Our sermon text for this morning is Romans 6:12-14. Romans 6:12-14. Please turn there with me. Certainly, killing sin by the Spirit is among the greatest duties and privileges of Christian life. The chief end of man is, as the confession says, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Few other activities serve and enable that great goal as does killing sin by the Spirit. Unfortunately, killing sin by the Spirit is a doctrine which has fallen into disrepute in our present day. It is, sadly, a doctrine which itching ears long not to hear, and so it has fallen into disuse and disrepair. Even worse, around this under-tended but beautiful flower have grown the weeds of moralism, legalism, and antinomianism– doctrines which lull sinful believers into dullness concerning their sin. This is not true Christianity! True and biblical Christianity is founded on the Word, the word which says “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44), and “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you might not sin” (1 John 2:1), and “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). True Christianity does not abide sin, make peace with sin, tolerate sin, or suffer any sin to remain unopposed in the life of the believer. True Christianity seeks to kill sin by the Spirit at every turn. And by the grace of God, that is what we will set out to do this morning. Read Romans 6:1-14. Pray. Paul’s main point in these verse is that believers should not continue to sin because they have been brought from death to life. He has established earlier in Romans that the believer no longer abides under the wrath of God, and now he’s answering the question from a believer who says “if I’m forgiven, why shouldn’t I 1 just keep on sinning?” To that question, Paul gives this answer: “You shouldn’t keep sinning because you’ve been brought from death to life.” The relationship between the question and the answer may not be immediately clear, so let’s unpack the text. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” The word therefore means that Paul is continuing the argument he started in 6:1. Specifically, he’s drawing an inference from the fact of v. 11, that believers are dead to sin and alive in Christ. But what does it mean to be dead to sin? Surely it doesn’t mean that we no longer sin; in vv. 2 and 11 where the phrase is used, it is used as an encouragement to kill sin, therefore it cannot mean that we no longer sin! So what does it mean to be dead to sin? To be dead to sin is to be dead to its guilt! Dead to its legal hold on us! “Consider yourselves dead to sin,” says Paul, by believing that you are planted with Christ in his death, that from his wounds your pardon flows and your daily victory springs. To be dead to sin is to be saved from its penalty, to know that you, sinner, apart from anything you have done, have been pardoned, set free, declared guiltless by God on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ for sin. Therefore, now in verse 12, do not let sin reign in your mortal body. Since you have been set free from sin’s guilt, shake off sin’s grip! If you are released from its penalty, deny its power! We all know the power of sin. This is not something which must be explained to the believer; it’s presence is continually felt. In fact, if you aren’t aware of the reign of sin in your life, it may well be because you are still under its total dominion. You have no concept of sin just as fish have no concept of water. If that is the case, then pray for an awakening of your dead conscience, and for forgiveness from your many sins; believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. But salvation, rather than being the end of sin, is the beginning of the believer’s lifelong battle against it. At the moment of salvation, your sin has been cancelled; it no longer has the power to damn you in the sight of God. Now it 2 must be plucked up, rooted out, cast away. Sin has been dethroned, but, like Absalom, it sits at the gate and continually whispers to our members, always trying to stir up rebellion against the lordship of Christ in our hearts. Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies! Do not let it make you obey its passions! It promises so much and provides so little! Sin best pictured as Dame Folly from Proverbs, who sits at the door to her house and tells you to steal for her. “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17). But in the end, what? He does not know that the dead are there! Her guests are in the pit of Sheol! Listen to how Paul says it: “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” (Romans 6:21). Notice what Paul says in verse 12, that these are sin’s passions! Have you ever felt that you were so beset by sin you could not possibly be a Christian? Have you ever felt that you were all over sin, that sin clung to your very bones? Do you feel that now? Do you read Genesis 6 and find in yourself a sickening similarity to that wicked generation– “that every intention of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)? There is good news for you in the gospel! Because you have died to your sin and been raised up with Christ, you are not your sin! Believer, you are not your sin. Sin’s passions are at work, but they are not your passions! Sin’s works are disgusting and pernicious, but they are not your works! Listen to what Paul says in Romans 7– Read Romans 7:14-20. To be sure, this does not absolve you of your responsibility; this is not a license to sin: it is an indication that you no longer have to sin because you are separated from your sin! In verse 12 Paul gives the exhortation, and in verse 13 he clarifies it. How would we let sin reign in our mortal bodies? By presenting our members, the faculties of our mind and body, as “instruments for unrighteousness.” This is a military phrase– “present arms!” The meaning is evident, I think. Don’t give yourself in service to sin! Sin desired to rule over Cain– don’t let it rule over you! Notice that this puts sin in the realm of choice. For the believer, sin is not 3 necessarily a given. To be sure, we will not be free from sin until we die, but that does not mean that we have no choice in the case of any particular sin. Sin is always a choice, believer. It is not something that happens to you, the result of forces beyond your control, or the inevitable knee-jerk response to an action against you– your sin, no matter the surrounding circumstances or context, is always a result of your choice. So don’t present your members to sin! Rather, and here Paul adds a new thought to the mix, present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Here is the question, believer, the question on which all of Paul’s exhortations hang: Have you been brought from death to life? How many states are there here? This isn’t The Princess Bride– you cannot be “mostly dead.” If you are a believer, you were dead in trespasses and sins, and you have been made alive in Christ Jesus. If you are an unbeliever, you are dead, a slave of sin, and the wrath of God remains on you. Which is it? If you have been brought from death to life, then present yourself to God as one who has been been resurrected! This is not a difficult concept, though it is much easier said than done, amen? The question is, have you begun the work of killing sin? Have you put your hand to the plow? Have you considered the cost? Do you know offhand what your pet sins are? If not, why not? Do you realize the futility of that kind of ignorance? It’s like being at war with an unknown enemy! You have no idea how to attack or how to defend. In order not to let sin reign in your body, you must know how it is currently attempting to reign! So know yourself. Rather than the endless introspection of secularism which swings between self-loathing and self-worship, know instead your sins, strongholds, temptations, and struggles. Devote time to discerning where and when you are most likely to sin, and why. What leads you into sin? What makes it easy for you to sin? What makes it hard for you to sin? Paul has said that we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes– are you ignorant of your sin? This is not an incidental in your life. Paul says in Romans 8, “for if you 4 live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (8:13). Think about your life. Is it not sin which holds you back from the prayer life you have often wanted? Isn’t it sin which occludes your Bible reading? Isn’t it sin which spoils your joy, taints your worship, corrupts your service? Isn’t it sin which wears away your love? Tell me Christian: who do you want to be? Do you want to be happy, and healthy, and holy? Do you want to be full of joy and kindness? Do you want to be bold and honest and good? Then kill sin by the Spirit! Work at it; don’t tolerate any practice or habit, however innocuous, which gets between you and the business of killing sin! And of course this is a two-sided coin: don’t think to put off without putting on. Don’t turn from sin into nothing; rather, present yourselves to God. There is no middle ground. If you would kill sin without turning to God, you will be like the person of whom Jesus speaks in Matthew 12: an unclean spirit went out of that person and wandered for some time, but afterward returned. Upon returning, the spirit found his former home “empty, swept, and put in order.” So he went out and found seven spirits worse than himself, and they all came to dwell there, making the poor soul’s last state worse than his first. Do not think to consider yourself dead to sin without considering yourself alive to God. There is no genuine sin-killing without faith. It is not enough to not let sin reign; Jesus must reign instead. You cannot run as a third-party on the ticket of your soul. There are two options: sin and death, or Jesus and the life he brings. Present yourself to God, therefore. Give yourself to your Redeemer in faith and love. Trust in his salvation, obey his laws, and hope in his return. Present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. Verse 13 tells us why we ought not let sin reign, why we ought not present our members to sin, particularly why we ought to present our members to God: “for sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Believer, is that good news? Sin will have no dominion over you! After Jesus’ 5 resurrection, Paul said that “death no longer has dominion over him” (6:9). Now, we join in this freedom– sin will not have dominion over you! You will not fail in giving yourself to God, and why? Because sin will have no dominion over you. Believer, you have put on the new man, and the old man will end in destruction. This operation of the Spirit on your soul is as assured and inexorable as the sunrise. You will someday be free from sin. Someday that stronghold you thought would enslave you forever will be a distant memory. Certainly this will be true of you in heaven; but Paul’s point is that it is, to some degree, true of you now. In this life you will know the joy of sanctification. In this life you have the power and the privilege to put off sin. This next word “since” gives the reason why sin will have no dominion over you. “Since you are not under law but under grace.” Why will sin have no dominion over you? Because you are not under law, but under grace.” Ironically, this is the opposite of what Paul’s questioner assumed at the beginning of the passage. Romans 5 ends with the promise of superabundant grace in the presence of sin, and Romans 6 opens with the question “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” In other words, the question assumes that the new reality of grace would lead to more sin. And why not? If there is no remaining judgment for what you do, then go crazy! Paul’s response shows that line of thinking to be a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Grace is a word that Paul uses to sum up all of God’s redemptive activity in Christ. Grace is the whole picture, the riches of God’s mercy, the message that Jesus died and rose again and everything that means for believers. That’s what Paul’s detractors don’t understand: they think that grace is the get-out-of-jail-free card, that grace forgives sin and leaves the sinner where he is. Do you want a picture of that kind of grace? That would be as if Jesus resurrected Lazarus by setting his heart to pumping again. Here comes Lazarus, lurching out of the grave in a state of decay, no higher brain function, no cellular regeneration, just a heart which pumps deoxygenated blood through his failing body. I think AMC made a TV series about that. 6 Real grace does not just cancel the penalty of sin, but breaks its power! Real grace redeems us from our fallen state in truth! If you think the only thing miserable about sin is its guilt, then pray that God will open your blinded eyes. Sin is death! Not just eternal death, though that’s the chiefest of its bitter fruits; Sin itself is misery and death. Consider all your frustration and futility, all your pain and sorrow and longing– what is its cause? Is it not remaining sin, either in your heart or in the heart of some other person? This, then, is the magnitude of God’s grace. The grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ sets you free from all your guilt, your debt, the punishment due to you; and, the grace of God in Jesus Christ frees you from daily bondage to sins in your life. How does this happen, practically? We’ve just looked at it from 30,000-feet, but on the ground level, how does the grace of God help us to kill sin daily? What does this look like in the trenches? Look at the end of chapter 6, where Paul makes a comparison. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This is the “standard of teaching” that Paul refers to a few verses earlier (6:17). It is the power of the gospel which freed us from sin’s penalty, and it is the promises of the gospel which set us free from it’s power! We wish to kill sin by the Spirit, the phrase that Paul uses in Romans 8, because without which there is no true sin-killing. As we close, turn to Galatians 3 with me. In this letter, Paul addresses a fundamental problem in the church in Galatia, namely, that they had added to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so Paul asks these questions of them in chapter 3: “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” And what’s the answer? Hearing with faith, of course. “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” And what’s the answer? Hearing with faith! Hearing what with faith? The promise of the gospel for superior satisfaction and blessing! Look at the text– Read Galatians 3:6-9. The power of the Spirit to kill sin in our lives is released by hearing– believing, receiving– the gospel of grace. So when Paul gets to 7 chapter 5 in Galatians and says “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” he means that the gospel is the power to break the enticements of sin in your life and in my life. When temptation comes, Jesus is better. When you want so desperately to open your mouth and say something cruel and cutting, to gossip, to slander and lie and hurt, remember that your well- being and significance does not come from those things, but rather from the cross. When you want to click that button on the internet and go where you should not go, remember the promise of the gospel, that “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). Whatever your sin problem is– greed, man-pleasing, bitterness, anger, lust, backbiting, selfishness, pride– whatever it is, the promise of freedom and satisfaction in the gospel answers a thousand times over, Jesus is better. Do not continue in sin, because you have been brought from death to life. Make every effort, then, to kill remaining sin in your heart by the Spirit. Devote yourself to killing sin and to presenting yourself to God. Sin will have no dominion over you in this, for you are not under law, but under grace. Let’s pray. 8
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