It seems in this church and community, in the past few years, an incredible number of people have been diagnosed with diabetes. It is no secret that there is one incredibly powerful way for diabetic people to live healthy: medications yes, but perhaps more important – to completely change the way you eat as a way of life… Today we focus on your spiritual health, transforming an unhealthy way of life, a life of sin, abuse, for a life focused on Christ. Becoming a Christian is not merely a matter of accepting the truth of Christ, and then going on with a new found knowledge. Christianity is a way of life, something completely new.
I know what your thinking… me change? When Cows Fly… (encore of the Cow, see photos in Rom. 6:1-8 sermon).
The question has to do with lifestyle choices: At any given moment is it OK to blow my top because I know I can instantly be forgiven? Is it OK to treat somebody unkindly because you know you can get back in fellowship with God? Is it OK to look at a website you know you ought not to be looking at and look at it anyway because you know you can be forgiven in your quiet time tomorrow morning? Should I treat sin lightly because I’m saved, and I’m going to heaven when I die? Can I excuse my behavior because God saves me by his grace? The answer “God forbid.” Or as the NIV says, By no means! Certainty Not! That’s absurd!
God wants better for you. When you invite Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life, he wants all of you. To accept Jesus Christ means you still have some deciding to do… now the process begins of complete transformation so that living for Christ becomes a way of life…the big word we used is sanctification, the process of becoming more and more like Christ, like the master painter that keeps working on the painting, tweeking, re-painting, darkening the shadows, lightening the shadows….your life is a work in process…
The issue is clarified by bringing in the image of a slave in Rom. 6:16-18.
These verses are saying something like this: There are two kingdoms in this world— the kingdom of sin and kingdom of God. Just two… Before you came to Christ, you lived in the kingdom of sin whether you knew it or not. You were “a slave to sin.” You did what sin demanded. You lived according to the dictates of the lust of your eyes and the lust of your flesh and the lust of your heart. You followed sin. Sin was your master.
But now—through the power of Jesus Christ—you have been transferred out of the kingdom of sin into to the kingdom of God. You don’t live in the realm of sin any longer. You live in God’s kingdom. Now you have a choice as you how you will live.
What is the choice? To be a slave of Sin or a Slave of Christ. I think what this entire chapter is about is that many (all?) people think you can have your foot in two camps, live half-way for Christ, live for Christ wholeheartedly and completely -- when it is convenient. For years I was committed to brushing my teeth faithfully, daily, determined -- except when I was tired, except when it wasn’t convenient, and on those days. It did not help my teeth to be full committed to brushing my teeth part time. I felt guilty, my teeth deteriorated to a point where I had to make a choice. For the last 15-20 years there are no exceptions, taking care of my teeth is a way of life, I don’t even ask myself if I’m too tired… no fanfare, no asking, just doing it. Living for Christ halfway is not good, the guilt, the inconsistency, the excuses… You are called to live for Christ even when it is hard, even when you don’t feel like it, even if it means giving up opportunities that don’t fit your commitment to Christ… to fully live for Christ is where you find complete satisfaction, maturity… “You have been set free from sin, and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18). A way of life, you can change…
What difference does your choice make? What’s it hurt if I hold back a little? What’s it hurt if I hold my fighting arm up out of the water when I’m baptized, like the crusaders that were baptized in the lake, but held their fighting arms with sword in hand up out of the water… In Rom. 6:19 there is an interesting phrase so easy to pass by: READ. Paul is talking about our pre-conversion days. “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity.” Sound like last week’s message about fully yielding the part of your body to Christ: my mind, feet, hands, heart, intimate parts, ears, eyes… Before Christ, Paul is saying, you used to take the parts of your body and live an impure life. Then Paul says, you gave yourself “to ever-increasing wickedness.” odd phrase. You know what it means? It means you can tell a lie but you can’t tell just one. Like not being able to eat just one potato chip.
I read about a man who told a lie at work. “I got in trouble and I told a lie to cover up what I had done. But then I found that I needed to tell another lie to cover up for the first lie. But then I had to tell a third lie to cover up the first two lies I told. Then I had to tell another one to cover up the third lie, a fifth lie to cover up the fourth lie, and I kept on until I finally sat down and counted up and realized that I had to tell 42 lies in a row to cover up for the first one.” That’s ever-increasing wickedness. Once upon a time there was a man named David who lusted after a woman named Bathsheba. First he lusted. Then he committed adultery. Then he lied to cover that up, then he committed murder to cover up everything else. Lust. Adultery. Lies. Murder.
Ever-increasing wickedness. One sin leads to another. Envy leads to envy so that it becomes a way of life. Lust leads to lust, a month or so ago I gave a man a ride to Bellingham that was a bit tipsy, I thought I was back in the days of high school cruising back and forth between Everson and Sumas… every woman he saw he’d tell me what was on his mind (I won’t go into detail), grow up buddy, clearly a way of life… . Bitterness leads to bitterness leads to bitterness. Sin is like that. It’s an ever-increasing thing, becoming a way of life. It is not possible to live half way for Christ and just maintain –you are going to spiral up, or spiral down. I’ve seen people have meltdowns, their lives spin out of control – the truth is that spiritually you are either going forward or backward, toward Christ or away from Christ…
It’s a choice… slave to sin, slave to God. Both choices have results:
Choose sin as a way of life, sin’s ever increasing wickedness lifestyle, and the result is slavery (Rom. 6:19), shame (Rom. 6:21) and death (Rom. 6:21, 23).
Choose Christ as a way of life and the result is righeousness (Rom. 6:19), Holiness (Rom. 6:19) and eternal life (Rom. 6:23).
Sin results in slavery. He says this a number of times. In verse 19 he says you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery. In verse 20, you were slaves to sin. The first thing sin does: It enslaves. It puts you in bondage. Pornography does that, doesn’t it? Some of you men know this. Pornography puts you in bondage. You hate it but you can’t break it. You’re in bondage to it. That’s what sin does. In my never ending quest to understand addictions, I ask a lot of questions, one person told me Meth is highly addictive, the first time a person uses meth an intense high is achieved, and after that, never again is quite the same, forever after the quest is to achieve that first time high. Incredibly difficult to break the pattern. The same way with a critical spirit, bitterness, a hateful word. The same way with lust. It never satisfies. It just enslaves you.
Paul speaks of shame in Rom. 6:21, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” Amazing, choosing a lifestyle that you don’t even like. Yet I hear it all the time. Do you have anything in your past you’re ashamed of? Sin first enslaves and, second, sin makes you ashamed. number three: death.
Rom. 6:21 tells us “those things result in death.” Look at Rom 6:23, a famous verse, “for the wages of sin is death.” I learned something new this week. All my life, I’ve read that the wages of sin is death and I always thought that it was talking exclusively about death in hell. But there is more to the story. The word “wages” comes from the Roman military, referring to the daily food ration a soldier would receive. Do your job, get your food, everyday you do your job and get your wages.
For the wages of sin is death. The daily payment of sin is daily death – death can become a way of life. The wages of sin is death. Choose sin as a way of life, and you are going to get: slavery, shame, death. And you’re going to get it every single day. You are going towards Christ, or away from Christ.
What are the results of a way of life with God? Rom 6:19 says the result is righteousness, a new way of living. Rom. 6:19 says the result is holiness, a new way of pleasing God. Rom. 6:23 says the result is eternal life. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. One man said, “If you like sin, you’ll love holiness.” If you thought sin was fun, try some holiness for a while. It’s really fun! There’s no bad aftertaste, and there’s no guilty conscience, and there’s nothing left to be remorseful about. Sin satisfies for a little while. Holiness satisfies forever. Sometimes its so nice to fall into bed without brushing your teeth, but reality is that if you start down that path, it becomes a habit, only when you get to the point that it is a way of life, you don’t even ask yourself, you just to it. Cultivate right living, holiness, and eternal life.
Just as sin as a way of life results in death everyday, embracing Christ as a way of life results in life everyday. For those who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the fullness of heaven is coming, but guess what, eternal life starts today. Just as a life of sin results in a life of slavery, shame and death everyday, so a life of living for Christ leads to righteousness, holiness and life everyday. I believe the word “eternal” does not just refer to duration of time, but also quality of life. To follow Christ as a way of life is to experience freshness, newness, abundant life every day. To live for Christ is an amazing experience that transforms your life like no other.
You can change. Make trusting God a way of life? The way of righteousness, the way of holiness, the way of life in Christ beginning today and stretching into eternity. You can. The free gift of God is wrapped up in the person of God’s son, Jesus Christ. In your heart, if you want to say yes to Jesus for the first time, pray this prayer.
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I want to shed the pattern of sin leading to more sin. I know I deserve your punishment. I know I’ve broken your law. I know I cannot save myself. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying on the cross for me. Thank you for paying the price for my sin. Thank you for taking my sins away. Come into my heart, change me, Lord Jesus, and be my master and savior. Amen.
You have a choice in how to live your life. That prayer is very simple, but if you will pray and mean it from your heart, the Lord Jesus will save you. Christianity is a way of life. You choose the way of sin which leads to slavery, shame and death, or the way of Jesus Christ which leads to righteousness, holiness and eternal life. Amen.