We are currently in the Easter season, that time between Easter day and Pentecost. We’re in the middle of our sermon series VIVID, where we are looking at what life can look like in the light of Jesus resurrection. We all exist in that world that time after Jesus’ resurrection, but most of us don’t live like it. Just like I can’t see properly without my glasses [take off glasses] we cannot see life around us properly without our Resurrection glasses. When we first start doing this, we will be amazed by the new things that we can see. Things around us that we didn’t notice, but have been right next to us all the time.
However, since we couldn’t see it, we can really haven’t claimed all the benefits. We don’t live in the freedom that came with the Resurrection. We know that Jesus died for our sins that we are forgiven, but we stop there and continue to try to live life under the old system instead of claiming the new life that we receive through the Risen Christ, Jesus. We continue to live under the old system even though it has no power over us.
Apostle Paul describes this problem in Romans 7:15 – 20…
Romans 7:15-20 NIV
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
We’re in the middle of our sermon series VIVID, and some of you weren’t here last week, so we’re going to review quickly. Here’s how we’re going to do it. I want to ask everyone who’s ungodly to raise their hands, just the ungodly ones to raise your hand. Those of you who are visiting or weren’t here last week, who are pulling your purse closer or checking your wallet is still in place, we learned that part of the reason we have that struggle that the Apostle Paul talks about is because we’re not God. We are un-god-ly. If you want more information about all this, all of these sermons are on our website JosephUMC.org.
We want you to get caught up because we’re talking about some of the most complicated, confusing things in the New Testament. If you thought last week was confusing, you haven’t seen anything yet, but in church language we don’t say confusing, we say it’s “deep.” But, it’s so important. When we understand it, it can really change how we look at our lives, the world, and our place in the world. There’s not much riding on this, is there?
We’re going to try to simplify it, but if at the end you say, “I don’t know what she’s talking about.” Just remember I told you. It’s confusing, but so important.
Last week we looked at this problem that we have that Paul describes for us. We don’t do what we know we should, and we do what we know we should not. Beginning this and for the next couple of weeks, we will look at the solution.
But we can all relate to that statement and some way. We drive home saying, “Why did I do that again?” We say something in the heat of anger or even because someone was annoying, something we can’t take back. “Why did I say that? What’s wrong with me?” We try to change. We can train our dogs, but we can’t train us.
We learn the Apostle Paul’s answer to that in verse 20, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
If we dig into this little a little deeper, we see that Paul is talking like Sin as an entity like a disease that causes us to sin or make bad choices. We might think of it as a genetic disease because we inherited it. This goes back to our original human ancestor. Paul would definitely identify this ancestor as Adam, as found in the biblical Book of Genesis. Whether all of us here agree with that, for purposes of discussion I’m going to refer to this person as Adam.
Paul said once upon a time there was a man named Adam, and the whole human race was born in Adam as our original ancestor. As the first person, even more than in a physical way, everyone was born into Adam. We were all born into Adam, you, me, the Apostle Paul, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, everybody. What was true of Adam is true of us, and through Adam, Sin entered the world. Adam sinned, and effectively caused this spiritual genetic mutation that has passed down ever since to us, so it’s as if when Adam sinned, made a mistake, we sinned even though it was nothing we physically did.
It is like someone who has hemophilia, a blood disorder, where the blood doesn’t clot normally. Just as that person didn’t do anything to get that disease, they inherited it. There are treatments, but they didn’t do anything to acquire it. They weren’t exposed to it. They were born with it, and we were born into Adam with his disease called Sin. And this is very important. When we were born, what was true of Adam was true of us. So, we are born with the guilt and condemnation of Sin, and Sin rules over us.
Paul would say that the reason we do what we know we shouldn’t and don’t do what we should, the reason we have this internal battle, which Paul described so accurately, is because Sin lives in us and Sin is our master. There are times that we must obey the sin in us.
I realize this sounds very different or strange, but just hang with me here. If you are a Christian, you already believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is the Son of God, that forgiveness and praying for enemies is a good thing, makes our lives better. So, this is Paul’s explanation, and he hung out with the guys that hung out with Jesus. He says the reason that we make terrible choices, even though we know better, is because we are born in Adam, inherited Sin from him, and Sin ruled over all of us.
After Paul wraps up his explanation of the human condition, he finishes with this statement, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24)
That’s a pretty intense statement, and it tells us something. It tells us that this thing that he did that he couldn’t stop doing was a big deal. It wasn’t something small.
“I forgot to wash the dishes. What a wretched man I am … I drove two miles per hour over the speed limit. What a wretched woman I am … I should take out the garbage without being reminded. What a wretched person I am.”
No it wasn’t like that. Whatever it was, and Paul doesn’t tell us, and that is a good thing because what is a problem for some of us, is easy for others, but we all have our thing. However, whatever it was, it was something he knew he shouldn’t do, but he couldn’t stop doing it. It drove him to this statement. “What a wretched man I am!”
We may not use this exact wording, but we all have something that will drive us to this kind of statement when it’s happened again. I might be able to keep it up for a couple of days or weeks, but I can’t be consistent. I messed up. What is wrong with me? What has gotten into me? Paul says that it’s Sin that’s in him.
And we say, I would do anything to break this habit or not do this thing. What a wretched man, what a wretched woman I am….
Paul goes on to ask a question. What will rescue me? Actually, this is not Paul’s question, but it’s our question…. What can I do? What can I change? What can I read? What new Guru has new advice? What? What? What?
The reason that we remain in this condition, and you may already have discovered this, there is no what that will save you. It’s not even a sermon or a Bible verse. It’s not a what.
Paul introduces the solution of Sin in us that causes us to make poor choices, that drives us to the statement or feeling behind it, “What a wretched man I am, wretched woman, wretched father, wretched mother, wretched spouse, wretched person….
Paul’s actual question is, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24) [Emphasis mine.]
The question is who not what. “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ Our Lord!” (Romans 7: 24- 25)
That word “through” is going to be very important to us as we look at this. All through the New Testament we see phrases like “in Christ” and “through Christ,” and we might blow buy them as figurative or motivational, like when we tell someone far away that we are with them in spirit. We may even wish we could be there, but it’s an idea. We’re not really there. When we’re talking about “through Christ” or “in Christ Jesus,” we’re talking about a lot more.
Paul tells us that our solution isn’t a what. It isn’t you. It isn’t discipline. It isn’t more will power – or as my dad used to say won’t power – though in the New Testament Paul encourages all of that. Self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit, but it’s bigger than that. The answer to the why can’t I do what I’m supposed to do, is a person. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord!”
So now, and for the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about how all this connects. Connecting the who with the do. If I can connect the who with the do, I don’t have to do the things I don’t want to do. That’s how Paul tells us he was able to have victory over the things that controlled his life. What he could not do on his own.
As Paul tries to explain how this works, he can get a little complicated or, what we call in the church, deep, so I’m going to give you the basic premise. Then we will go through it, and come back to this at the end.
Due to the action, error, of one man, we’re calling Adam, we were born a slave to sin, under its power or control….
So the single righteous Act of one man – not just any man, but Jesus – frees you from the power of sin.
The one single act of Jesus dying on the cross has the potential that once you are taken out of Adam and placed into Christ, you are then free from the power of sin.
Then, you say, “Ummmm…. No I’m not.” And I say, “We’re not done yet. Hang with me.”
Paul’s going to explain some things to us that we might not have heard before, and you’ll say, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” Paul even starts out his discussion with, “Don’t you know?” This is because the Christians he was writing to in Rome didn’t know.
Now, we’re going to Romans chapter 6 starting at verse 2. These verses are so powerful, but Paul sometimes goes on tangents. We’re going to try to follow the thread through them because they are so powerful, so important for our understanding of the gift that God gave to us, a gift that most of us have not opened fully.
Paul writes, “We are those who died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
When we hear baptized, we think of the ceremony or act when babies are brought into the Christian family, or us as adults accepting Christ. We do this with water, and we think about sprinkling, pouring, or going fully in the water. The Greek word itself, baptism, simply means to plunge or immerse, and the generic Greek meaning is what Paul means here. So let me read this question again, substituting the word immerse, and I may do that and future verses.
Or didn’t you know that all of us who were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death?
Therefore, what is true of Christ is true of you. All the benefits and ramifications of what happened to Jesus, we get too, is true of you because you are in Christ.
Paul goes on, “We were therefore buried with him through [immersion] into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
Most people who consider themselves Christians understand part of that. Because we believe in Jesus or ask Jesus to come into our hearts, we get to go to heaven when we die. That’s true. That’s part of the message of the Gospel. We are taken out of condemnation through Adam and placed into Christ, who already paid the penalty for our sin. What is new is, it not only applies after we die, but it also applies to this life. It’s all true of us now because we are in Christ.
Continuing into verse 6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin may be done away with, that we may no longer be slaves to sin.”
The part of us that was ruled by Sin is no longer under the power or dictate of Sin. It’s dead. So before, in Adam, you were a slave to Sin, but in Christ you no longer are. Remember, Paul was writing to people he never met in Rome, but we get the benefit of it.
Continuing, “Because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (v 7)
The penalty of sin is death. When we are in Christ that penalty has been paid. The penalty has already been paid, so the power of Sin is gone. Have you ever tried to tempt a corpse? You can’t do it.
Paul continues in verse 10, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”
Once for all means it never has to happen again. And it means, it happened for you, everyone. Once Jesus died to sin, you died to sin, once you were placed in Jesus.
A summary of all this is that we were born into Adam. What was true of Adam was true of us. When we were put in Christ, what is true of Christ, of Jesus, becomes true of us. However, it is hard to stop thinking the old way even though we are in a new place.
Paul continues, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus… For sin shall no longer be your master.”
That is pivotal. Say out loud, Sin is not my master.” All together now, say, “Sin is not my master.” Now whisper it. “Sin is not my master.” Even softer. “Sin is not my master.” We need to tell ourselves that 100 times a day.
So, I have an imperfect analogy. If you think of an international adoption. Kids living under another government, in an institution, or orphanage. There’s a legal transaction that goes on beyond the power of the child. The child goes from orphan to family member, goes from poverty to wealth – by the world’s standards. Their name is changed, their identity is changed. The older the child is, the longer it takes for them to adapt to the new situation he or she finds themselves in. This new world, this new life. Children can hoard food, clinging to Cheerios.
The old power, old government, old institution loses all authority over that child. Now, Mom or Dad shows up at the door, and says, “No, you have no authority over this child anymore because they belong to us.”
When you were taken out of Adam and placed into Christ, you’ve got a new name, a new identity, new family, and maybe most importantly, Sin lost its authority over you.
You may have been saying yes to Sin, but it no longer has authority over you. Sin is no longer your master. It can tempt, cajole, but Sin is not your master.
Can you imagine living a life like that? Something happens. The temptation comes up, and you recognize it. “This is just Sin attempting to taunt and tempt me back into my old life. This is just Sin’s mechanism to tempt and taunt me back into an identity, place, or way of thinking that I am free from. Sin is not my master.”
Your homework for this week is to figure out your way to say to yourself, “Sin is not my master. I am dead to sin but alive to God.” This isn’t even trying to change our behavior. That may be too much for us, but in the moment say to yourself, learn to start thinking about yourself. “Sin is not my master. I am dead to sin but alive to God.” And when you are overwhelmed by whatever you’re doing, you can say this to yourself to this entity of Sin. “Sin is not my master.”
When this becomes your new approach to life, the lens through which you look at life, the Resurrection glasses through which you see life, you are not the person you used to be. There’s no point in living the way you used to live.
Because, sin is not your master. Say it out loud again all together. “Sin is not my master… I am dead to sin but alive to God.” All together, “Sin is not my master… I am dead to sin but alive to God.” Whisper it. “Sin is not my master…. I am dead to sin, but alive to God.”
Thanks be to God! Amen!
Adapted from Andy Stanley’s series “Free.”