Romans 6:12-23

Dr. Robert J. Anderson

June 29, 2014

 

Somewhere along the way we probably heard the terms “justification” and “sanctification”.  Or if you have not, and these terms are new to you, let’s get on the same page. 

 

Classical Protestant Christianity defines it this way.  Justification is God’s declaration that a sinner is righteous.  This righteous designation isn’t because of anything the sinner has done.  Righteousness is God’s gracious decision to count the righteousness of Jesus as belonging to the sinner.  All of this is at God’s initiative--that’s why it is called “grace.”  Sanctification is living out God’s justification.  The sinner is not just counted as righteous but lives out actually being transformed into holy living.  Here we see in Paul’s writing what this looks like.  We do not live lives of wickedness.  We treat others with respect and dignity.  We do not lie, kill, etc.  Living out the Christian life is not a burden, something to be endured; rather, it is a joyful response to God’s gift of grace.  Both, justification and sanctification are both parts of redemption and are under the umbrella of grace.

Besides the unfamiliarity with the words justification and sanctification, Paul’s use of slavery may put us off.  However, let us understand his use of slavery and separate it from our understanding and/or experience of slavery.  His focus is not an institution of slavery, but, rather, the ultimate allegiance, loyalty, obedience, or service.  For Paul, to be a slave is to totally surrender yourself to the control of another.  We abhor slavery and the vestiges of it that live on today.  As Christians, we stand full square against the enslavement of races, ethnic groups, women, children, and men.  We oppose human trafficking of women, boys, and girls, and, all other forms of enslavement.

 

However, like Paul, we acknowledge that both Christians and non-Christians are dominated by someone or something other than themselves.  Paul would not understand our 21st Century ideas of self-control and personal determination.  Paul believed humans cannot help but be enslaved to someone or something.  This could be slave owner, a philosophy, an evil force, passions or desires, or on a positive note--righteousness and service.

 

21st Century “slave masters” are…Fashion – latest trends, physical fitness (lives and relationships organized around trips to the gym and vigorous exercise), wealth that guides them by the whims of Wall Street.

 

Who are our masters?  Do you want to know who yours are?  What occupies your thoughts?  How do you spend your time and money?  We all serve something or someone.  Paul asks us to find who or what we serve--is it God or everything else?

 

Paul, to our way of thinking, is pretty black and white in what he sees.  There are only two masters--righteousness (God) and sin (everything else).

The problem isn’t having a master--everyone has one--but it is the one you serve that makes a difference.  Are you going to be liberated or not?  David Bartlett, a New Testament scholar, puts it this way.  “There are loyalties that liberate.”  The only way to win is to surrender to God to be truly free.

 

Think of it this way.  A teenager comes up with a creative way to keep out of trouble.  When a friend would call and ask him to do something he thought was questionable, he invented a way to say “no” without losing face or becoming unpopular.  “Hey Mom!  Can I do this or that?”  And, then add “I need you to say ‘no’!”  She would and he could tell his friends his mother won’t let me!  Surrendering to his mother enabled him to do the right thing without a struggle.  This captures Paul’s theology of salvation.  God is really on our side and has our best interests at heart.  If we devote ourselves to him, he will lead us to abundant living.

 

Many young people are disillusioned with organized religion these days, because it seems so hypocritical¾we say one thing and do another!

 

This is a fair criticism.  There are a lot of examples of people who profess a faith that doesn’t influence their daily living.  We are aware of people who are one way on Sunday and different Monday through Saturday.

 

I remember talking to one woman in the hospital in the second congregation I served.  She didn’t attend church and said it was because it was full of hypocrites!  She was surprised at my response: “Good!  That’s the kind of people we’re looking for!”  When she asked why, I said that it is because if someone was so out of touch with themselves that they don’t realize that they say one thing and do another; then they will never understand Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and renewal.  Yet, young people are fair in their criticism of the church on the grounds of hypocrisy.

 

The sixth chapter of Romans is full of Paul encouraging Christians to walk the walk and live for Christ now that they are dead to sin.  This doesn’t happen automatically but must be resolved to do each day--and many times throughout the day.  Walking the talk is choice moment by moment.  Tell the truth--even when it may hurtful.  But, it must be done in a loving, caring way!  Tell the truth even when it may not make you look good.  Do what you know to be right--even when you think no one is watching!  Build up others rather than tear them down. Offer words of encouragement instead of bursting someone’s dreams.  Speak out against prejudice and injustice.  Living out your Christian faith is a choice over and over and over again.  Each moment we are to choose to be instruments of righteousness rather than wickedness.

 

There are a lot of things we are told are free that are really not.  You have so much experience with this that I don’t need to list some of the appeals we receive.  But, God’s gift is really free!  It’s really free; for that is the only way we can get it.

 

Think of the 10 Commandments for a moment (no lying, killing, honoring your parents, etc.) and having to keep them 24/7 all your life.  Now, what would happen if God came to you and said, “I will love you when you keep all of the 10 Commandments all of your life without one slip up.”  First of all, if we could do that, we’d have wait until we die before we would be loved by God!  We would miss out on God’s love and blessings our entire lives!  Second, I would be depressed!  For God has given me an impossible task!  I see the wisdom of the 10 Commandments and I believe I would be a better person if I kept them all all of the time; but I know I don’t!  I would be hopeless!  I would see my end as being what Paul describes as death--not just physical but spiritual too--forever separated from God and loved ones.  Given my condition, what good news it is to hear that God counts the righteousness of Christ as mine!  Amazing grace!  Then there is the grace of the Holy Spirit helping me live out my faith, loving when I sin (mess up), forgiving me, and renewing my spirit.  My despair is lifted and my hopeless chased away and in their place I find a love beyond my imagination and a hope that endures whatever I face in my days!  How could I ask for anything more?!

 

If your life isn’t filled with the joy of Christian faith, don’t let another moment get away from you without embracing God who is nearer to you than your next heartbeat and more dear than your next breath.  Speak to me.  Talk to Bob Smith our Parish Associate.  Seek out someone who exudes faith.

 

I’ll tell you this; when you do YOU will increase God’s joy!  You think God has it all?  You’re wrong.  Jesus told several parables teaching that when someone comes home to the family of God, there is more joy in heaven!  YOU will increase God’s joy!

 

It is really free!!  Don’t miss out!!