Changing Times, Changeless God: Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
Pastor Russell Scoggins
Sermon Date: 10/6/2019
Bible Reference: Romans 6:1-14
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
My wife and I are reading a book right now as part of our joint devotional reading. The name of the book is “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller. This past week as we were reading one of the chapters in his book, Paul Miller framed something in a quite thought provoking way. He was speaking about sin and he said something to this extent: Sin always tries to make you live a double life. Sin always tries to split your personality.
Let me give you a couple examples. So often, when we sin, we tell ourselves, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s not that big of a deal. God will forgive me.” All of us do it. We all try to rationalize sin and convince ourselves that it’s okay to sin in some particular way—it’s okay to sin in some particular instance. We forget that sin always tries to lead us into a double life. Let’s start with an easy and clear example. Looking at pornography leads is into a double life. God tells us that we are to save our hearts, minds, and bodies for the spouse we marry. When we look at pornography, we give part of ourselves to people we don’t even know. Then, the next time we interact with our spouse we have to lie and act as though we have all of ourselves to give to that individual, when really, we’re running on fumes. Sin leads us to live a double life. It seeks to split our personality.
Let’s consider the sin of idolatry. To cling first and foremost to ANYTHING other than God himself is idolatry. Some of us have been clinging to an idol for so long that we’ve convinced ourselves God’s okay with it. We try to live a double life and it just doesn’t work. God wants our whole heart and our whole life. We tell ourselves that 2 things can have that number one spot in our hearts—but it’s just not true. Eventually, whatever it is we are clinging to begins to control our hearts and minds… and suddenly, God and his mission, God and his work become second to our own personal agenda.
The double life that sin tries to lead us into can truly be applied to any sin. Let’s consider the seemingly harmless sin of impatience. Even impatience can lead us into a double life. God tells us to treat one another with kindness and respect… he tells us to consider one another better than ourselves… but when we give into impatience, kindness, respect, and humility fly right out the window. Rather than listen to one another—rather than try to truly understand and gently encourage one another, we simply raise your voice and shut them down. We tear them down. We become short with each other and snap at each other. We tell ourselves that since I’m right, I get a pass to be impatient in this particular situation. And, well, to put it bluntly, no… we don’t get a pass. That way of thinking comes from sin residing in our hearts and lives and convincing us it’s okay to lead a double life.
So… the question presents itself: how do we live one life? How do we live a life that chases after God and God alone? How do we live a life that says “no” to sin and “no” to living a double life? How do we build a life and a church where we truly chase after and share God’s gracious heart in each and every moment and each and every interaction? Let’s see what Paul has to say.
“6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ” Paul starts chapter 6 with a line of thought from chapter 5. If you remember from last week, one of the words we spoke about was that powerful word “grace.” What was the simple definition for the word “grace” that we discussed last week? That’s right, “undeserved love.” As sinners, we don’t deserve God’s love, but we receive it anyways because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Still speaking about grace, something else Paul said in chapter 5 was this: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” By way of simplifying that phrase… You’ve probably heard this saying before—finish it for me if you can. Things naturally go from order towards (disorder). That’s kind of how sin works too. Over the course of history, humanity's sin hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. Sin has piled up. But, fortunately, God’s grace is bigger than the entirety of humanity's sin, and it will always be bigger than the entirety of humanity’s sin. God’s grace does not run out. It will always be bigger than sin.
But Paul, smart guy that he is, knows he’s speaking to people who still have a sinful nature so he continues with chapter 6 of Romans. In this first section, he says, even though God’s grace is bigger than your sin, and will always be bigger than your sin, that DOESN’T mean we should go around sinning. “God will forgive me if I sin in this situation.” It’s true, God has paid for each and every: sin, past, present, and future...but when we use that as a reason to have an attitude that it’s OKAY to sin… then there’s a problem—there’s a disconnect.
Paul warns us against living in sin. Here’s what that means. Living in sin is when you ask sin to move into your life. It’s when you plan to sin, you sin, you applaud the sin, and then you repeat the sin. “I want to do this, I’m doing it, I’m glad I did it, and I’m doing it again.” Paul says when we have that attitude about sin, there’s a huge problem. Sin always desires to have a relationship with us. It always to split our personality. It always desires to pull us away from Jesus. And when we allow sin to move in to our lives and we have no regrets about it, our faith is on life support at best.
There will be times we struggle with sin—that’s not what we’re talking about here. Paul’s going to talk about that in the next couple chapters. We all struggle and will continue to struggle with sin this side of heaven. There is a difference between struggling with sin and welcoming sin to move in as your roommate.
Let me try to correctly illustrate the attitude about sin that Paul is speaking about here. Tell you a story about Joe. Joe was a stereotypical college frat boy. During college, Joe did what stereotypical frat boys do. He did a lot of partying and did things with girls that God tells us to save for marriage. You might say, sin was his roommate. It was almost the same thing every weekend, drink too much, and go home with a different girl. But then, one day, Joe met a beautiful and upstanding woman that captured 100% of his attention. They got married. They stayed married and had a healthy marriage. One day, a few years into their marriage, some of Joe’s old college buddies got in contact with him. They told him they were going to be in town. They asked him if he wanted to go out and, well, do what they used to do in college. Joe says to them, “Are you kidding me? Have you met my wife? She’s incredible. She’s beautiful. She loves me more deeply and incredibly than anyone I’ve ever met. I would never even consider putting myself in a situation where my actions might hurt her. I can't put myself in a situation where I would be tempted to get drunk and cheat on her. That way of life is dead to me. I love my wife way too much.”
It’s a similar picture with us and Jesus. As sinners who didn’t know Jesus, we loved sin. Sin was our roommate and we saw nothing wrong with it. But now we’ve met Jesus. Jesus reached out to us and created a relationship with us through faith. And day in and day out we experience his incredible and indescribable love, grace and mercy. We would be crazy to abandon the beautiful and healthy relationship we have with Christ so that we could turn back to the toxic lifestyle of living in sin. That former way of living is dead to us. Christ has given us a new and beautiful life, why would we trade it in for something toxic?
“3 Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
Let’s talk a little about baptism. And just a quick side note, if you’re here with us today, and you’ve never been baptized, let me know after the service—we would love to make that happen. Now...We leave this object out for a reason—this is a baptismal font. We use it when we baptize people. As Jesus tells us to, we apply water, and say the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Through baptism we receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Through baptism the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts and we receive all the benefits of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Paul presents us with another powerful benefit of baptism here: He says, through baptism, we participate in Christ’s death. Through baptism, our old sinful self is crucified and a new person—a new child of God is born in us. When Paul says we’re dead to sin….he means—we’re dead to sin! Sin is dead to us! We have new life in Christ. Through baptism, our old selves die with Christ—our sinful selves are crucified.
“8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Verse 11 has a powerful thought. Paul says “count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In the original language, the word Paul uses for “count” has a fuller definition. It means to calculate and determine by mathematical process. Paul’s saying, “Do the math: Christ died. Christ rose again. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has shown that he has power over death. Death can't touch him. It’s a fact. It’s reality. And now, through faith—through baptism, you too have died with Christ. Your sinful nature has been crucified with him and you’ve been given a new life. You are dead to sin. You are alive in Christ. Sin is not your master. You have been freed from the slavery of sin.”
Do the math: maybe you’ve spent years struggling with pornography, drinking, or drug use—but that doesn’t have to be your today, it doesn’t have to be your tomorrow (you’re dead to sin and alive in Christ). Do the math: maybe you’re someone who gets caught up in this world’s definition of beauty and confidence and it causes you to have self image problems—but that doesn't have to be your today or tomorrow (you’re dead to the world and it’s twisted thinking, but alive in Christ). Do the math: maybe you’ve spent years being skeptical, cynical, impatient, short tempered, or acting like you’re always in the right and stepping on others to prove it—but that doesn’t have to be your today or tomorrow (you’ve died to an unkind and sinful way of living—it was crucified on the cross with Jesus, and now you have new life in him [a life that is typified by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control]). Do the math: maybe you’ve spent decades clinging to an idol and you fear what might happen if you give it up—but that doesn't have to be your today or tomorrow (your idol loving sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and your new person clings to him, and him alone).
Our closing verses, “13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Sin shall no longer be your master because you are under grace. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin, but rather, offer yourself to God. Here’s an exercise for you to try this week. In the morning when you wake up and look in the mirror for the first time. Remind yourself that you are a baptized child of God. You are dead to sin, but alive to Christ. Then take a moment, as encouraged by Paul, to think about the implications of that. Offer every part of your body to God. Your mouth is for praising him, and encouraging others. Your eyes are for looking at, reading, and filling your mind with the things God would have you think about. Your hands are for serving God and others. Your mind is for thinking about the heavenly thoughts God would have you think about. You and every part of your body is dead to sin, but alive in Christ. You’re no longer a slave to sin, rather, you stand in and you’re defined by grace. Amen? Amen.