Living as Instruments I
Turn to Romans 6
Our mission here at Sunnyside is to help People Reach Their Full Potential In Christ: Physically, Spiritually and Emotionally. I believe each of us should endeavor to participate in that mission. We should be asking ourselves, “How can I help others reach their potential in Christ, and how can I my church reach its potential.”
In an effort to help us move toward our potential, we began the Believe series last year. It was designed to provide a basic theological foundation and to encourage Christian living. We’ve covered a lot of ground: what we believe, what we do and who we become.
As a coach, I often ask my client at the end of a session, “What is your take away?” I would say the “take away” from the Believe series is that we are to bear fruit - we are to become the real self God has designed each of us to be. And bearing fruit is just as much about doing as it is about being (transformation) – it’s a character issue. Bearing fruit means that we are “image bearers” - we carry God’s image; we display God’s character to the world.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
I think that’s the “take away” - we are to display God’s character. With that in mind, let’s peruse through Romans chapters 6-7 and see what the Lord has for us. Can’t really peruse through Romans. It is Paul’s longest letter and it is heavy with theology and practical Christian living. To jump into the middle of Romans is a challenge.
So to help us do that, it would be helpful to think in terms of kingdoms. Let’s go with the classic story of two kingdoms – the Evil Kingdom ruled by an evil dictator. The land is dark and gloomy – it’s a kingdom of fear and death. The other kingdom, a Good Kingdom is ruled by a righteous and just King – the land is sunny, colorful – citizens enjoy peace and good life. The Bible is clear – spiritually, those are our two options: a kingdom of darkness and death or a Kingdom of light and life.
In a kingdom, or any organization, loyalty or allegiance (faithfulness) is critical. Loyalty is a heart and mind issue. It’s an internal issue. It’s not so much about what we say or do, but who we are and to whom we offer ourselves - to whom are we loyal. That’s what I really want us to home in on - loyalty or allegiance. To which kingdom; to which king are we loyal?
In more Biblical language, when a person lives in rejection of God’s principles - they’re living in sin - they are living as citizens of the kingdom of darkness. They are subjects of the evil king. The only way to escape and enter the good Kingdom is by grace through the Good King’s Son - Jesus Christ. And He, through His blood, purchased our citizenship, paid our debt and said come into the Good Kingdom and be free.
However, there are some who think that this new freedom means we can live however we want without consequence. Even though some say our allegiance is to the Good Kingdom, their behavior says otherwise. Their lifestyle reveals allegiance to the evil kingdom. They want dual citizenship. There’s no such thing.
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? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
There were some (still around today) who encouraged sinful living in order to increase God’s grace. The idea - if you have 5 pounds of sin and God gave 10 pounds of grace to cover the sin, logically the more we sin the more grace we get! Have at it! That is whacked evil theology. Nowhere in Scripture does God every say, “Go ahead and sin so I can give you more grace.” Nowhere does God say, “You’re in the Good Kingdom now, but I give you permission to live like you’re in the evil kingdom.
So, Paul writes … Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Probably not water baptism. This is a metaphor for being immersed in Christ. What is baptism? It is a public proclamation of one’s allegiance.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
When we align ourselves with Christ, we “die” to the old evil kingdom and its power and influence. We die to the evil king and now live under the Good King. There can only be one ruler in our lives. It’s either self, something else or God. Can’t have more than one master. Again, the big question is, where is my allegiance.
Again, the issue Paul is addressing is people were teaching we can be loyal to Jesus but live like we’re not. Paul is like, “That doesn’t make sense. Jesus didn’t shed His blood to pay for our sins so we could continue to live in sin. He died to give us new life - free from sin!”
We need to clarify some things about sin, because there is a movement in the church that says we need to be ok with sinful behavior because that’s just the way we are. Rather than deal with sin, they say tolerate - accept.
If we think of sin only in terms doing something wrong - doing something that God disapproves of, or breaking God’s rules, then we miss what sin is and the effects of sin in our world. If sin is merely breaking some rules and Jesus forgives us, then what’s the big deal.
We preachers have been guilty of defining sin as missing the mark. Here’s God’s standard, we all missed it and we need to be forgiven. Sin is more complex than that. We must recognize what sin is and what it does. In the Bible, sin is like Neapolitan ice-cream - one container but three flavors (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry). In Scripture, sin has three primary “flavors.” Sin is either an act, an entity or an authority. Typically, the difference lies in the plural or singular.
Typically, the plural refers to the action of sin. When we’ve been forgiven of our sins, we’ve been forgiven of our sinful actions. Of course, sin is breaking God’s moral law, rebellion, or disobedience. God said, “Don’t,” and we do, that is a sin. Of course, that sin makes us guilty before God.
Sin, in the singular is often described as an entity - this evil force that wants to destroy humanity. Sin, the entity is crouching at our door and wants us to commit an act of sin. Lastly, living under the influence of sin, puts us under its power or domain or authority (the evil kingdom).
Sin is not just missing the mark - it’s complex and we need to get this - All sin is destructive, disruptive and is a relational violation. That’s where we really miss it. We often think that sin is a private ordeal between an individual and God. But answer this, name one sin that doesn’t either destroy, disrupt, or damage someone else? You can’t. Do not lie - relational. Do not steal - relational. Do not have other gods - relational. No private sin. We cannot engage in sin apart from effecting someone else.
So, Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God asks how can we knowingly continue to live in sinful behavior that destroys, disrupts, separates, harms every relationship?
Moving on -
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
There’s a lot in there, but here’s where I want us to focus - Paul says we must consider - recognize, believe, step into the work of Christ ….
Some questions here:
1) Has the old sinful me died? It’s easy to say yes, but we’re not as interested in our words as we are our lives. A couple of things to help answer that.
A) Do I struggle with sin (roller coaster Christian / stuck in a cycle of sin and repent …)
B) How much pull or influence does sin have on me and my choices? Temptation?
C) Who set’s my agenda? Daily and life agenda? Is my agenda I-centered or Christ-centered?
D) For whom do I live? The life Jesus lives, He lives to God, for God, through God, empowered by God ….
E) Have I been through the pain of crucifixion? Crucifixion - dying to self and total surrender is brutal. Those who have experienced entire sanctification usually attest to a moment or season of brutal surrender. Self does not want to die. This is one reason why I believe there is a difference between salvation and born-again (new nature / manager)
That’s a difficult place to stop.
Helping People Reach Their Full Potential In Christ: Physically, Spiritually and Emotionally. We’ll never reach that potential if we live under that old allegiance …