We are in the middle of a sermon series about looking at life in the light of the resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter day. We have been talking about something that is a mystery to many Christians, something that many of us have been blind to even those who have been in church all their lives. It’s like we have to put on our Resurrection glasses to see life around us in a new way, a way we may have never seen it before. Giving the possibilities for our lives now a new vividness that we have never experienced before. Even if you are already aware, it can be so exciting to hear it acknowledged. This wonder that you see all around you as new people start seeing it too.
Romans 6:9-14 NIV
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.
If you have never tried to read the Bible, it is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is old, and the New Testament is… also old.
The New Testament is broken into three sections: the Gospels, 4 accounts of Jesus’ ministry life; Acts, the early church right after the Resurrection; the Epistles, or Letters, are Jesus followers explaining what Christianity looks like in everyday life, in the marketplace, in the real world. The Letters were written to individual churches but intended to be passed around, and most of them were written by the Apostle Paul.
With Paul’s writings, usually the first half are the theological and the second half are practical. And what happens is, we start reading the letters, and we get these theological phrases like: In Him, through Him, Christ in me.
We end up skipping that part, saying to ourselves, “I’m sure somebody understands this stuff,” and we get to the practical things about how to live our lives. We try to do it, and we’re good at it, for about a week. Then we go to church, where someone says and the Bible says: do this, that, and the other. We say, “Yes, I really ought to do that, but I don’t because it’s hard. But the good news is that at night I can pray: Dear God, please forgive me for all my sins because I know what they are because I go to church, and they tell me. So please forgive me.”
We are told that God empties our bucket of sin, and we get an empty bucket and go and fill it up the next day. We keep doing that, and one day we die and get to go to heaven. But when you read the Epistles of Paul he goes, “No, no, no, no, no…”
The Christian life is not about doing the best you can, knowing that you are disappointing God on an hourly basis, and then trying to get all your sins forgiven, so you get to go to heaven when you die. There is a lot more to it than that.
A summary of what Paul taught can be summed up like this. Sin doesn’t control where you go when you die. Many of us are told that all we have to do is say this prayer to accept Jesus and forgive our sins, and we get to go to heaven when we die. We see the thief on the cross next to Jesus who says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We say this “escape hatch prayer,” and we get to go to heaven when we die. That’s the limit of many people’s Christian experience. It’s not that it’s wrong, but it is just a part of it. Paul would say that it’s a small part of it.
- Sin doesn’t control where you go when you die.
- Sin doesn’t have to control what you do when you live.
The Christian life also has to do with our life now. Paul describes how we can live free from the power of sin in our lives. Paul says, you are not the person you used to be. Why would you live the way you used to live? When you place your faith in Christ, in Jesus, you became a brand new person. Paul says in 2 Cor 5:17, “The old things have passed away. Behold all things are new.”
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Paul’s description of the problem. Last week we started talking about his suggestions as to the solution. We’ve been focusing on Paul’s description of the problem as he experienced it when he was a very religious person, but before he understood what he is going to explain to us. We can all relate to this statement.
Starting at Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I do not want to do I do, but what I hate I do.” Continuing onto verse 18, “No that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” (7:15, 18-19)
This is an experience we’ve all had. Not only with the rules we see in the Bible, but the rules that we make ourselves. We all have an explanation of why we do what we know we shouldn’t. Paul has an explanation for this in verse 20, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin living in me that does it.”
Paul says, You may not believe me, but I hung out with Matthew, Mark, Peter, and John. I’ve learned the teachings of Jesus. I need you to understand. There is a great explanation of why you can’t do what you know is right, and there is a solution to the problem of you.
The human race was born into Adam, whom we are referring to as our original ancestor. We all inherit the gene from Adam. It makes us sinners. We have sin in us. We all mess up. That is because we were born “in Adam.”
The human race is made up of sinners. You were not born a good person that occasionally does bad things. You were born a bad person that occasionally does good things. The bad person might do something good because they may get a benefit from it. Why would a good person do a bad thing? Paul says that it is because there aren’t any inherently good people. When Adam sinned, he brought sin into the world, like it is a thing, a personified thing.
According to Paul, when we are wrestling with temptation, the struggle we are wrestling with is an entity called Sin. When you became a Christian, you we’re actually taken out of Adam and placed into Christ.
Last week, we talked about that just as what was true of Adam was true of you, once you are placed in Christ, what is true of Christ becomes true of you. This is why you are forgiven. This is why you are acceptable to God. This is also why you can live free from sin.
When Christ died, he died to the power of sin. Once you were placed into Christ, what was true of his past is now true of your future.
We compared it to an international adoption. The child doesn’t even know what’s going on. What is true of the new family becomes true for that child. The orphanage, the nation, the state loses all authority over that child because of a legal transaction. In the same way, Paul argues, you were taken out of Adam and placed in Christ, and what is true of Christ is true of you.
We ended with the statement, “Sin is not my master. I am dead to sin and alive in God.”
Paul says, we can’t do what we ought to do because we have been a slave to sin. But if you have been taken out of Adam and placed into Christ, sin is no longer your master, even if you still obey its will.
Today, we will answer the question. So what? And now what? You may be saying, “I don’t know if I buy it. I definitely don’t understand it. Does this mean I have to keep M&Ms with me all the time? How am I supposed to remember this?
Paul tells us in Romans 6 what to do with this new way of thinking. It’s very confusing, but we’re going to try to simplify it. Here’s an outline to make it clearer that we’re going to go through.
Declare – Decide – Devote… 3D
Let’s all say it out loud a few times. Declare – decide – devote … Declare – decide – devote … Declare – decide – devote.
Paul tells us in Romans 6: 9, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.”
Jesus conquered sin. Jesus conquered death.
Paul continues, “The death he died [not just life] he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:10)
Christ died to the power of sin. On the tail of sin there is always death. Paul says this is what we’ve got to do.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
You are also dead to sin because Jesus is. The word “count” was/is an accounting term, strange as it may sound. It can mean to consider, to accept, to believe, which do not sound like accounting terms, but this last one does, to factor in. We will use the term declare.
As you move forward in this. You have to accept, or declare, that’s sin is not your master.
The power of sin has been broken. Regardless of how you live or whether you have ever experienced this, the first step in applying this is by declaring that sin is not your master.
Again repeat after me, Sin is not my master. Sin is not my master. Whisper it. Sin is not my master.
When that thing that tempts us comes up, anger, lust, jealousy, whatever … before we act on it, whisper, “Sin is not my master.”
Paul continues in verse 12. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”
Do not let sin have control over you. When you let sin reign in your body, when you say yes to sin, you are letting sin in. Sin does not reign over you. Sin only reigns if you let it. The entity of sin or temptations.
Question, when you wrestle with sin or temptation, which side of the argument do you identify with? You know the debate that you have when you’re trying to decide whether you should do that thing that you know you shouldn’t do, and so on. If you argue from the standpoint of Adam, it sounds like this: Nobody’s perfect; I’ve always been susceptible to this; My mom was this way; My dad was this way; I’ve had this issue; I have this issue; I can’t help it; All men are alike; All women are alike; This is just natural; This is normal; This is what we do.
When you argue from this standpoint, it is the standpoint of sin. This is who you used to be, and you will lose this argument every time because you have identified with someone you are not. Somehow, the goodness and righteousness stands apart from you, and you have identified with sin.
It becomes a different kind of struggle when you struggle from the standpoint of identifying with who you are in Christ. We are going to go deep into this next week, so you don’t want to miss it.
But if you’re arguing from the standpoint of who you are in Christ, it sounds more like this: That is sin trying to rule me; That’s sin trying to conquer me; That’s sin thinking it has power over me; That’s sin trying to rule my life; I know that in the shadow of sin is death, and I’ve had enough of death in my life, relationships, finances, and so on. Why would someone who is free from sin continue to walk in it? Why would I embrace something that is going to hurt me? Hurt the people I love? I have been set free from sin. I am in Christ, and the death he died to sin once for all, I would be part of that, and I am in Christ. Besides, the only way sin can get to me is to come through him, to come through Jesus.
When you struggle, and you do. We all do. When you struggle, with that thing. Here’s that thing again. When you struggle, with that thing, in that moment, you choose what side of the equation you identify with. And, which side you choose has everything to do with the outcome.
As long as we identify with Adam … Nobody’s perfect. I’ve always been susceptible to this. I can’t help it. This is who I am … As long as we’re identifying with Adam, we will continue to behave as we have always behaved.
Paul says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”
Because you have a choice. You can say no. This is not no to you. You can say no to sin because the power of sin has been broken. You are in a new family. Sin can knock on the door, ring the doorbell, text you, email you, but you get to say, “I’m not going to let you rule and influenced my life anymore.”
Our second “d” word is decide. Decide not to let sin rule you. We declare, sin is not my master. Therefore, I decide not to let sin rule over me anymore. I have had enough death in my life.
Paul continues, “Do not offer any part of yourself …”[and Paul is talking about actual body parts. Sin taking over parts of our body, our mouths, tongue, brain, hands, feet, eyes … Do not offer any part of yourself, “… to sin as an instrument of wickedness.” (Romans 6: 13a)
This is saying to sin, “You cannot have my eyes to look at that thing that I know tempts and taunts me. No, you cannot have my hands to do that thing. No sin, you cannot have my feet to go walk over to participate. I’m declaring that sin is not my master, and I’m deciding not to let sin rule over me anymore.”
Paul continues, “But rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” (Romans 6: 13b)
When you were in Adam, you really had no choice. When you are in Christ, you can offer yourself to God. It doesn’t matter about the choices you made before, your background.
Instead of Paul continues, “And offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Romans 6: 13c)
Our third key word is devote. Devote your body to God
Some people start their day with a Biblical devotion to get in tune, to get in step, with God for the day. Can you begin your day devoting your body to God? It helps us to make our declaration a reality in our lives.
“I’m going to give you my hands God because today I know that sin is going to want to use my hands. I’m going to give you my eyes because I know that sometime today sin is going to want my eyes. I’m going to give you my feet because at some point sin will want to me to go somewhere. When I hear sin, I have to remember that I have already devoted my feet to you. And my arms and my mind, and God I want to triple devote my mouth to you because sin wants my mouth all the time. I can be good with my mouth, but I can destroy people. I want to devote my mouth, so that when sin says, ‘Say it. Just say it. It will be so funny… Say it. They’re never going to bring that up again… Say it.’ I can say, ‘No, sin is not my master. I don’t have to let you control me. Besides, I have already devoted my mouth to God, who brought me out of death into life.'”
You don’t have to do this, but Paul asks us, would you like to make this declaration a reality in your everyday physical life? Would you like to declare something? Decide then to devote yourself to God. It can make all the difference.
Trying to change ourselves, trying so hard. Every time we mess up we feel like a hypocrite. Feeling inconsistent.
I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t grow up in a practicing Christian household. We probably would have called ourselves Christians. We definitely had what I think of as a Judeo-Christian moral code. No lying, no stealing, treat others with respect. Help people who need it. So, we had a lot of the framework, but at least I, as a child in that household, was not given the why. Why do we need to do these things? Why don’t we do other things? Effectively, we had one answer to that question. You know the answer that someone who has authority gives but doesn’t really know the answer, because. Because this is what we do. Because this is what should be done.
We were people who were trying to be good, but we were Christians in name only. We didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. We weren’t developing our relationship with God or studying the scriptures. Maybe my parents did, but if so, they did a great job of hiding it from me.
So when I was in my late twenties, and I decided to accept the idea that Jesus died on the cross, for all of us, and was raised from the dead on that first Easter morning, I was like a new Christian. In fact I was a new Christian, and like many new Christians, I was very enthused… about everything. I tried everything. Found some great things. Found some other areas I was not gifted in. One of the things that I did was to receive the training to become a lay speaker and a certified lay speaker, which are what is now called Lay Servants.
The more I learned, the more I found myself in that trap that Paul describes with his, why do I do what I shouldn’t, and why don’t I do what I know I should. And, day by day, I was learning about more things I should start or stop doing. And I either, beat myself up, or I made those arguments that we were talking about before, from the perspective of Adam. I’m not perfect. This is the way I am. It’s not fair, but I knew they were wrong, and I felt like a hypocrite, like I was wearing a mask, a facade. But I plugged away, trying harder, and I would see some change in how my temptations were affecting me. For a day, for a week, for a month, for 6 months even, I would do well, or they would change. I would stop doing one thing and pick up something else. When we allow sin to be our master, it can be very seductive and devious, give us the illusion of victory while diverting us to something else.
I got to Seminary, and I was in a small group with several other women there. I will always remember the night that we all confessed that we were struggling. That’s because we were all trying. Trying to do it ourselves, not realizing that we had not claimed the new life that Jesus gives us. We were not yet looking at life through Resurrection glasses.
The thing that Paul talks about in Colossians chapter 3 that can push us beyond this battle to try harder, working under the old system, rather than claiming the freedom we have already been given.
So we are going to move to another letter, Colossians, and look at Colossians 3: 2, which begins, “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” That phrase itself is not particularly helpful. It sounds like another to-do list.
But he goes on, “…For you have died …” What? I can understand the first part. I can’t do it, but I understand it, I think. “…For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
But then there is the next phrase, ” … When Christ, who is our life…”
I can’t live up to the standard of the Christian Life. Only one person can do that, Christ Jesus. As long as we strive to live up to the standard, be everything the Bible says we should be, be accountable, do this, don’t do that, don’t have a bad attitude, be generous, and all this stuff… As long as we’re trying to imitate Christ, of course we’re going to fail.
We need to learn how to allow this life has been given to us, now that we are in Christ Jesus to radiate through us. We need to learn how to let Christ live his life through us.
When what I’m talking about gets from your brain to your heart, a new thing will happen. Then, when you read the opening chapters of Paul’s other letters, you will realize that this isn’t just advice on how to be a better person. You literally are not the same person you used to be, so of course, you can’t live the way you used to live.
It’s not a matter of trying harder. Your old dead life is never going to be able to live up to the standard of the Christian Life, The Life of Christ. Your brand new life that you have in Christ is now something you’ve got to learn to allow to happen through you. You wake up every morning and say to God, “Of course I can’t… But you can.”
And every time I’m tempted, I realize that sin is not my master, so I don’t have to let sin reign in my mortal body. I have the freedom to devote every member of my body to my new master who has promised to live his life through my mouth, my hands, my feet, my ears, my heart.
It’s a completely different way of viewing the Christian life. The thing is that it’s not hidden in a corner. It’s throughout the entire New Testament. One day, you’re going to be reading the Gospels, and you’re going to see Jesus say something like, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” (John 15:5)
The branches get their life from the vine, which we may have dismissed as a nice picture. The branches get their life from Jesus.
When Jesus says, “Apart from me you can’t bear any fruit.” Actually, what he says in John 15:5 is, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
And we think, “Oh yes I can. I can do more, try harder, be disciplined.”
“No,” Jesus says, “You can’t bear any fruit apart from me.” It’s my life through you because you are in me.
It is so different. It will take some getting used to. It’s like seeing colors for the first time.
So why don’t we start every day by declaring something you may have never experienced. Declare, sin is not my master. I’m going to decide not to let sin rule over me. And today Lord God, I want to devote every member of my body to you. I can’t, but you can. Live your life through me.
But you may be asking, “What about all the rules the Bible talks about, the Ten Commandments?” That’s what we’re going to talk about next week.
Next week, we are going to focus on one of the most important verses in the New Testament. From Romans 6:14, “For sin will no longer be your master…” which we have focused on already, but we will be concentrating more on the second part, “… because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
So you may ask, what does sin is not my master. I’m not under the law. I’m under grace, mean? What do they have to do with each other? That’s why you can’t miss next week.
We are going to look at these rich versus where the Apostle Paul says this is how your new life in Christ connects and interacts with all of those things you grew up hearing. All that has been taught in Scripture.
But the good news is … that sin is not your master … unless you choose to live under law instead of under grace.
So don’t miss next week, as we continue looking at this Vivid way to live in the world as Easter people, wearing our Resurrection glasses.
Adapted from Andy Stanley’s series “Free.”