Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-June 24, 2008

So far in our study of the book of Romans this Pentecost season, we have been discussing what theologians would call “justification.” The lengths that God has gone so that it would be “just—as—if—I’d” never sinned. But even in the midst of this good news our sinful minds start asking questions:

  • “What now?”
  • “How do we respond to this good news?”
  • “If God has done it all, where do I fit in?”
  • “What is my part in all of this?”

In Romans 6, Paul starts to answer these questions for us. Here we see a good before and after picture of our lives: Before - our lives in sin…After - our lives in Christ. Let’s start at verse 17, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

Paul likes this word, “slave”. He uses it often to describe our connection to sin, and as you read more of Paul’s letters you will find him describe himself as a slave of the Gospel. This description shows the radical change that has been made in us through Jesus Christ. It is The Manifestation of the Grace that we have been talking about the last few weeks, here at Bethany. But what does it mean to be a “slave to righteousness”?

Those who are in Christ have experienced the ultimate before and after story. Because of our depraved flesh, because sin is a reality, we know full well our “before” status (in fact, many of us kind of like our “before” status.) But in our sin we are enemies of God. In our sin we cannot please God. And if we ever have a hope of a continued relationship with Him, something needs to change. We are in need of a before and after story of our own. Here is how our before and after story might go:

You see it was one day, many years ago, God decided to do something different. Up to that point God had been struggling with the weight of sin, a definite problem. For His creation had been yo-yoing between doing the right thing and sin, eventually tipping the scales in the way of sin. But God’s love never fluctuated. His creation had tried everything, including doing good works and just about every fad program that had guaranteed success, and they all failed miserably. Ultimately, humanity became more and more sinful. Nothing seemed to work the right way. Many tried to say that humanity was not that bad and we don’t need to do anything about the evil in the world. Sin and loneliness became humanities best friends. During stressful times humanity seemed forget God and many strove to become perfect in all aspects in live except where sin was concerned. That was the one thing they couldn’t control. But, eventually the weight of sin came crashing down. Humanity suffered attacks from the devil himself. It was subtle at first but it became intense. Humanity refused to see that anything was wrong, but the pain and suffering continued. Then one day everything changed. In a stable in a small village God came to earth in Jesus Christ, who went to the cross where the weight of sin came crashing down on him; this, so that we can look into the mirror and not hate what we see. It was a change that we could not make, for everything we had done up to that point was wrong. Our way of living would only lead to death. Our course, this had to be reversed and Jesus flip-flopped with us to change our lives.

This is not simply a feel good story; it is the truth that is founded on the centrality of grace and the action of a loving Father. For in Him we have been changed. He moves us from before to after.

The key concept that Paul begins to explain here is called, sanctification. it describes our daily life in Christ. This is how we are to become slaves to righteousness. This is the application of what we have been talking about for the past few weeks. It is time for the rubber to meet the road. And I want to leave you with three things today:

#1- We are all slaves. We are no longer slaves to sin, but because of Jesus we are now slaves to righteousness. We can live righteous lives because of the grace freely given to us. We still feel the effects of sin because of our fallen nature, but one day this will all pass away and we won’t have to worry anymore.

#2- Slaves inherit reward. Slaves to sin inherit death but slaves to righteousness inherit eternal life. It is not the type of thinking we are used to. One who is in slavery is often mistreated; they do not receive many benefits. But, because we are now slaves to righteousness we produce the fruits of living for the King. The ultimate reward is eternal life.

#3- We are called to bear fruit. As we live our lives in Christ and as we live out our faith - we bear fruit. Jesus himself tells us of this calling when talking about the deeds of others, He said, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43-44). The fruit that we should be known by is the fruit of grace; the fruit that has the power to change, the fruit of forgiveness, compassion, mercy and love.

So what now? Do we go on sinning?

NO! But…we become slaves to righteousness, which leads to eternal life, so lets bear fruit!


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