Scripture Text: Romans 6:12-23
How important is your freedom? What would you do to truly be free? Would you become a slave to be free? That probably sounds ludicrous as to be a slave typically means to not be free. What if true freedom means giving yourself completely to one Person? Last week, we read about what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means for us today. It means we have life now and we are free from the punishment of sin. It also means we are dead. Many people treat the Christian faith as fire insurance, something to help them in the future. I remember when I first believed in Christ, I was thinking about what I needed to do to stay out of the bad place and get into the good place. I wanted a ticket to heaven, but I did not count the cost of what following Jesus really meant. I did not think about what it meant for me to live out my faith every day. Paul was thinking about that, though.
For Paul, to live as a Christian meant that you were different now than you were before you knew Christ. The person you are now should be radically different from the person you once were. Sadly, for many people, their faith in Christ is not all that evident. They appear to the world as non-Christians. To the world, there is no difference. Should our faith in Christ be evident? Should the world look upon the Church and see something different? Yes! If it does not, then what is the point of being the Church? What is God making here if not a different group of people? At the end of the passage last week, Paul ended the section with the first command of the whole letter to the Romans.
Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive with God. We must not allow sin to control us, but rather be controlled by love and devotion for God.
We are Slaves to the One We Obey
There is no absolute independence. All of us obey something or someone. People may not want to admit it, but we all serve something or someone. We each have things that control our lives. Some of you may be thinking about your spouse. Maybe that is true. Maybe your spouse tells you what to do, and maybe you like that. The point is that we have things or people in our lives that control us, that we obey. If you are hungry, you will typically get something to eat. That feeling of hunger controls your desire to eat. Some of you have been so infatuated with someone else that you could not think straight. No doubt the infatuation for that person controlled your actions. How about work? Many of you are controlled by your work or careers. You may not call it that, but in reality that is what it is. Some of you are controlled by possessions, by worry, by fame, or by power. Each of these things can control you.
Paul made an interesting statement in this passage. He wrote, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey.” (Romans 6:16) If you obey that selfish desire for power, you are a slave to it. If you obey that greedy desire for more money, you are a slave to it. If you obey that covetous desire for possessions, you are a slave to that. Sin is a master, and a cruel one at that. Sin is not only a master, but also a prison. It may not seem like that, but it is. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. I heard a really good description of sin from the recent movie God’s Not Dead, a movie about a college professor challenging the faith of a student by declaring that God does not exist. In one scene, one of the characters in the movie, an elderly lady with dementia, surprisingly explains to her affluent yet unbelieving son about sin.
“Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.”
Sometimes, sin does not feel like a prison, but it is. It will keep us as long as we want and we might not even realize that it has really enslaved us. In fact, we may not realize that we are in a prison that we have made. King David once described sin like this:
Psalm 7:14–15 14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.
Sin is oftentimes a pit that we have dug ourselves and have fallen into it. Jesus Christ came to set us free from the bondage of sin. He came to free us from the pit that we have dug and have fallen into. When God’s grace is applied to our lives, we are set free from the bondage of sin. Our hearts are then inclined to God. But does that mean that sin is no longer an issue? Does that mean we will never sin again? No!
We Must Resist Sin’s Attempt to Rule You
Paul acknowledged that sin will not rule those who are justified — those who God has declared right by faith in Jesus Christ. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, sin no longer has a claim on you. Sin may no longer rule us, but, we still exist in a Fallen World. We often struggle with sinful desire. Later in chapter seven Paul described the battle that rages within us. We sometimes want to do what is right but we yield to the temptations of the flesh. We desire what we oftentimes know we should not have. If you have been freed from the bondage of sin, meaning it has no control over you, no claim upon your life anymore, you should not put yourselves in situations that will lead to sin. Paul gave three more commands in chapter six:
Romans 6:12–13 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who have been freed from the bondage of sin, temptation still exists. The Christian has been released from the grip of sin, but sin tries to repeatedly reclaim its victims. It is like that defeated opponent that does not know when to stay down. That is why Paul wrote that we must no let sin control us. We oftentimes let sin control us by putting ourselves in bad situations. For instance, an alcoholic can be freed of his or her addiction to alcohol. But the temptation to drink is always at the door. If that former alcoholic gets around others who are drinking, then the temptation is for that person who was freed of his or her addiction to drink again. Maybe just one drink won’t hurt. And then it becomes two or three. Before long, that person has allowed alcohol to control his or her life again.
Think about if you were liberated from one ruthless dictator by a benevolent King. Would you go back to that former ruthless dictator? If you now belong to the kingdom of God and attempt to go back to the enemy, the old king, wouldn’t that be treason? You would be telling God that He is not good enough for you. You would be telling God that even though He had freed you from that prison, you prefer to be in chains again. Paul wrote to not let sin control you and make you obey its desires. The problem with righteousness and unrighteousness is a matter of desire. If you sin, it is because you desire what ever that sin is more than you desire God. If you lie, cheat, steal, lust, it is because you desire those things more than you desire God. By God’s grace, we are being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ with desires for God. When sin comes knocking on your door, pray God gives you a new desire to replace the old, sinful one.
By Making Us Slaves to Righteousness, God Sets Us Free
But some will say that if Jesus Christ has saved us and we are under the grace of God, we can therefore sin as we please. If we are under grace, then it does not matter what we do. If you believe this and live this way, it may indicate that you are not under grace at all. It may be an indication that you have a false grace, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “cheap grace”. Bonhoeffer said:
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…”
In a word, Bonhoeffer was saying cheap grace is no grace at all. True grace brings real change. Though God breaks the chains of sin and condemnation, though God frees us from the bondage of sin, we are slaves to Him. If we have been freed from sin by Jesus Christ, then we are slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:22–23 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have been set free from the old master of sin and have exchanged that for a new Master. Jesus is called Lord for a reason. We ought to obey Him. We ought to serve Him. The freedom of grace is the freedom for obedience and service, not a license to sin. To be free, we must give our whole self to God. We must belong to Him. The point Paul was making is that we ought to give ourselves completely to God so that our bodies are quite literally slaves to righteousness. We desire God so much that our bodies cannot not help but to serve God and be obedient.
And the rewards are great. While the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life. Think about that statement for a moment. A wage is something you earn. It is something you deserve. Even though you were a slave to sin, because of sin, you earn, or you deserve death. Death is the payment for sin working in your life. On the other hand, eternal life is a free gift. It is not earned. It is something free given to someone who does not deserve it. Obedience to sin brings death but obedience to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, brings righteousness and the gift of eternal life. Are you willing to give yourself completely to God in order to be truly free and have eternal life?
In closing, how do you not present yourself as an instrument of unrighteousness? Or to put positively, how do you present yourself as an instrument of righteousness? I think this is more than a list of actions, although that helps. It helps the former alcoholic to not be near alcohol or in situations where alcohol is present. Similarly, it helps the person who was addicted to pornography to not put himself in those situations — to avoid websites, magazines, and videos that might have that material. The real thing that God is after, though, is your heart. God wants you to desire Him more than any of these things or anything else for that matter.
Each day we must consciously give ourselves to God. We have to begin each day by saying to God, “Father, so far I haven’t cursed, I haven’t seen a dirty picture, I haven’t done anything that I am aware of that displeases you. But I am about to wake up and get this day started and will need your grace and power to help me stay focused on you. I will be tempted and will need your help to desire you more than sin. Give me a greater desire for you and the things you desire. Take my whole life and let it be for you!” Be an instrument of righteousness for God. Be a slave of God and you will have true freedom! Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.