I’m here to tell you, God can change your life. That’s what Rom. 6 is all about. (show my flying cow. When Bianca turned 18, this was my birthday present to her ….click any photo to enlarge.)
Romans 6…God is the God of the impossible… he can cause changes in your life so that you become a different person. My ethics professer in Seminary, Lewis Smedes, used to say, “My wife has been married to four different men – and they’ve all been me.”
Before we jump into Rom. 6:1-7, a few words about the chapter… first of all, for you following in Romans, you may recall that ended last time with Romans 4, that’s because when I started this pattern I started with chapter five many months ago, and then decided it seemed right to go through the entire book one chapter at a time… so we go from 4 to 6, but you can read online the Chapter 5 sermons.
There are two aspects of living the Christian life: initially becoming a Christian (or Justification), and continuing to live the Christian life (Sanctification). Romans 5 speaks of justification, finding the peace of Christ, being accepted by God… a great need to dedicate your life to Jesus and invite him into your heart, and to forgive your sins.
Romans 6 is talking about sanctification – living and growing as a Christian. The Lord is not looking just for numbers in the kingdom, he passionately cares about our maturity as Christians, growing in our faith. Romans 6 is about sanctification. Sanctify is the process of becoming – continuously transformed.
Justification happens at the moment you trust Christ and is never repeated. Sanctification happens moment-by-moment as you surrender your life to the Lord.
Justification is best symbolized by Baptism, that’s why normally people are baptized one time…that’s why Paul speaks of baptism in Rom. 6:3-4. Sanctification is best symbolized by the Lord’s Supper, communion, the need for Christ constantly to transform and change us, “for as often as you do this,” Jesus said.
Justification delivers from the penalty of sin. Sanctification delivers from the power of sin.
Justification is an event, a moment in time when God declares a person righteous.
Sanctification is a process, continually working out your relationship…
Justification happens once. Sanctification is gradual and continuous.
Justification is the work of a moment. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.
Justification gives you the merit of Christ, what he has done for you on the cross so that your sins are forgiven. Sanctification gives you the character of Christ, so that you learn and live and become more and more like Christ.
Romans 5 describes how we are brought into a right relationship with God while Romans 6 tells of the changed life which results from that new relationship with God.
Justification/sanctification. Think of a person that wants to become a medical doctor. She takes all the right pre-requisite classes. She is determined to become a doctor. Finally she is ready and applies to medical school and gets the letter in the mail: Accepted. Accepted into medical school! Suppose at that point she decides because she has been accepted, so she hangs out her shingle and starts her medical practice. That woman would make a better medical doctor than me – she has studied, worked hard in the field, taken classes, is wired to be a medical doctor, she’s been accepted into medical school, but/// at best she is an apprentice, a beginner, there is so much more training to be accomplished. To become a Christian is to be accepted into the school of Christ. You’ve heard the story of Christ, you believe the message, you pray and invite Christ into your heart and into your life. Now its time to learn, to grow, to develop, to mature in that wonderful relationship. As you begin the Christian life, don’t beat yourself up because you blow it… change has a beginning, but then it is a life commitment. You can change. Sure you say, “when cows fly!” You can be transformed. Don’t worry about the cows. Your life can change.
Paul begins Rom. 6 with a question, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?” odd question.
Here is what is behind this question. There is a false way of thinking that once you become a Christian, your entire life is turned upside down and you are instantly what you will forever be, a perfect person that suddenly knows nothing but peace. It’s as if the people in Rome are saying to Paul, “OK, now I am a Christian and I’m saved, I made it, I got the letter of acceptance, so now I can continue as I have.” When I was in San Fransisco, one man that used to go to the church explained to me that he no longer needed to go to Church because when he dies he knows he is going to heaven so he decided to play baseball on Sunday mornings instead.
“What shall we say, shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?” Another way to say it: now that I am a Christian, shall I live my life as I always have, no real changes, and if I sin that’s fine because God will forgive me and it’s not a problem.” I know where I’m going, I’m going to go to heaven, so whatever I am now is all I need to be. Sounds logical doesn’t it? The problem: God wants so much more for you. God wants your life to be completely transformed, changed, a depth of character, understanding, a life of transformation and change – I hope I am a different person now than I was ten years ago, 20 years ago, I understand fully the idea that my wife has been married to four different men, and they’ve all been me...
As Christians we do sin, but the difference is our focus. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Rom. 6:2: “By no means” Paul yells. Paul goes on to talk about baptism. That’s the justification part. “Don’t you know that when you were baptized you put the focus of sin behind you?” As Christians, we will continue to sin, but it is too our shame, not something we should accept and dismiss… as Christians, when we sin, it is about our focus, the desires of our heart… the purpose of salvation is expressed at the end of Rom. 6:4: that “we too may live a new life.”
As Christians who are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, who have embraced Jesus Christ as Lord, we are called to change everyday… to transform… sometimes when people become Christians some of their temptations and destructive patterns and attitudes are instantly removed, but sometimes the temptations continue… to be a Christians is to change right now, but then to commit to a life of learning, growing, changing, becoming more and more like Christ. You will sin, but never ever accept it as normal.
When I was in California I was a helper at a youth retreat. The music leaders, a band, decided they wanted a concert and dance to end the retreat… I was nervous, but the leaders allowed it: the music guys were constantly talking about how as Christians that doesn’t mean we need to be prudes, that we don’t have to give up everything. At the dance, I felt like I was back in high school and all the dances I hated -- the pressure of who was cool and who was not, a row of wall flowers like me, shy kids that were so uncomfortable, slow dances with bodies much too close for my comfort and too provocative, I saw people alienated, I saw people being turned on with all the uncomfortable intimate thoughts… that dance did not reflect Christian values and I was ashamed to be a part of it. People were alienated, they were embarrassed. I did not see how God was glorified or how these young people learned something about growing in their faith. My God is a God of affirmation and acceptance, not alienation and rejection.
Call me a prude, but when you become a Christian, there are some patterns and behaviors that you need to give up because you are making a commitment to becoming more and more like Christ and living for him and embracing the values of affirming others. When we sin as Christians it not to God’s glory because he gets to forgive us again, sin is to our shame.
As Christians our focus is no longer on the ways of the world, sin, death, no longer living for ourselves… from now on we live for Christ, what does he want for us, what values does he want us to live by, affirming others, lifting up others, serving God, being stewards of what he has entrusted to our care…transforming, changing, you can change! Forget the cows, God can change you as you live your life for him…abandoning your past ways of destruction and embracing a new life in the school of Christ. You’ve been accepted, go to class and grow in your faith, learn everyday, the transformation…
Read Rom. 6:5-7. God wants life for us. “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Underline the word “died.” That’s the key word for this whole chapter. This is a simple past tense—"You died to sin.” The simple truth is that if you are a believer, you have already died to sin. It’s a past event, an accomplished fact. What is a Christian? Someone who has died to sin. You have been set free from the ruling power of sin in your life.
Here is the truth about the Christians’ relationship to sin: The true believer cannot sin and stay happy! You can sin but you won’t be happy. Or if you are happy, you won’t stay happy. Sin and the believer are now mutually opposite. What once satisfied no longer satisfies. Lust won’t be as much fun. Anger won’t be as satisfying. Pride no longer meets your inner needs. Where once you enjoyed nursing a bitter spirit, now it feels uncomfortable. Sin no longer “fits” your life. You can “wear” sin for a while, but it’s like wearing old clothes that are two sizes too small. For years my waste size was 33. I think I wore size 33 about four years too long before I could admit I was a tad heavier. You can wear clothes too small, but you won’t be comfortable, you won’t look natural, you won’t feel right, and frankly, you won’t look right either. Sin no longer “fits.” Sin is like Christians going to an uncomfortable provocative dance. Coming to Christ is like getting a new wardrobe. You are freed from sin. What fits now? Love, joy, peace, holiness, righteousness, compassion, zeal, concern for others… Those spiritual clothes fit just right. They were tailor-made for you. And those sins you used to wear so comfortably? They just don’t fit any more. You feel awkward and you look goofy when you try to put them back on. The old clothes just don’t fit anymore. You’ll sin as a Christian, but you won’t receive any personal satisfaction. “Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?” By no means!
“Anyone who has died” the scripture says, anyone who has accepted the death of Jesus Christ to pay for their sins, is now raised to a new life. The old has gone, the new has come. Put away the old patterns and adopt new patterns. You’ve been resurrected with Christ, you’ve been raised from sin, you are called to a new life in Christ.
Can a person change? How easy to think, “When Cows Fly.” Forget the cows. To be a Christian means to be justified, accepted by God and then begin the process of sanctification, a new life. From now on sin is to your shame, not a way of life, for you are now focused on growing and changing and becoming more and more like Christ.