Sunday, June 2, 2019
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
A daily prayer to share with you:
Dear God, so far today I’ve done alright. I haven’t gossiped or lost my temper. I haven’t turned to any vices or bad habits. I haven’t been grumpy or selfish and I’m really proud of that. But in a few minutes I’m going to get out of bed and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Amen
There is a lot of truth in this humorous prayer.
It is an extraordinary challenge to live a life following Christ each day, but Paul tells the church in his letter to the Romans that we are to be dead to sin and living a new life in Christ.
Listen to The Message Bible’s translation of verses 1-3 of today’s reading.
“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!”
Doesn’t that translation say it well? (I recommend reading The Message translation of Romans 6 if you want another take on this reading.)
In our baptism, we have left that old land of sin for good! We are to live a new life in a land of grace!
We are not to keep that old mailing address in the country of sin. It’s not meant to be our vacation house. It is not meant to be part of our new life. We don’t go running the same old errands from that old life. We are dead to sin, so how can we live in it?
We live in a new country where grace is sovereign. We have truly left for good. This new life of grace and the presence of God is truly good.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Nice thoughts, pastor, but I sinned on the way here. Remember the real struggle of life after getting out of bed reflected in that prayer? Can you explain being dead to sin to someone I have hurt? Can you explain my death to sin while I struggle to make choices best for God, myself, and my neighbor?
Did Paul really have this all figured out when he was writing to the church in Rome? Is Paul really trying to tell us the land of sin has been left behind?
It is not that sin ceases to exist. Sin presents an ongoing threat. We know pains of sin each day. We see the brokenness it brings.
This letter to the church in Rome shows that sin is no longer the ruler. Sin no longer has the control. Christ has put that sin to death on the cross. You and I both have our old sinful selves drowned in the waters of baptism, nailed to the cross with Christ so we are raised to a new life where sin no longer rules, but our grace-filled Savior rules the kingdom of this earth.
It is truly as if we are living in a new place. We are living in a new reality.
I believe that is why Paul wrote these words to the church in Rome. This is a struggle for people of faith. It is hard to live into a new reality and way of life.
We know the difficulty of change.
We experience location changes, job changes, new family members, the death of loved ones. There are many changes we face and even the good changes challenge us greatly. This change of a new life under grace is certainly good, but it is a shocking change!
The rhythms of life are changed in this new life. In daily patterns, we begin to know our life so well we can almost walk or drive to our usual places without even thinking.
That is how engrained our old patterns of sin become. We know those old familiar roads.
Sin was our truth, master, and reality for so long it can be hard to envision anything else as we get out of bed each morning.
Each day we step back into this new life in grace.
Some of you might be familiar with the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These are guiding principles to living in a new reality of life in recovery from the master that alcohol has become. I have several loved ones in AA and programs like it.
Alcohol can become a master of life. My friends who have celebrated anywhere from 2 to 20 years sober acknowledge this. Each day lived sober is lived one day at a time. The ongoing threat is there, but there is a new reality of salvation each and every day.
Sin becomes a master over us in a similar way. There is a good message in AA’s twelve steps for each of us. You can go through the steps and replace alcohol with ‘sin.’
For instance, the first step would read. “We admitted we were powerless over sin – that our lives had become unimaginable.”
This continues through the other steps, acknowledging the realities of sin in our life, the harm it has done to ourselves and others, and the need for a higher power. This continues on to the twelfth step, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
This new life and desire for this life for others is lived with intention. This is a resurrection to something new. Jesus was raised once so we could be raised to life continuously each day.
We do not raise ourselves from sin and death. This is the work of Christ through the gift of baptism.
How do we live in this new life?
We don’t do any of this work alone. It is Christ that put our sinful selves to death. It is Christ’s work and resurrection that brings us to new life. It is Christ that rules in our new land of the living. We don’t do any of this by our own power. We do this by the power of Christ in us.
We live in this new life, living not under the law but under grace.
This changes everything.
We shouldn’t be surprised that we can’t quite get things right. We are sinners in recovery. We are learning to walk in this new life of grace. Just like a child, we are learning to walk.
Have you seen a child learn to walk recently?
It doesn’t go perfectly, does it? There are shaky moments. There is the grab for a parent’s leg to steady them. There is the unpleasant bump to the floor.
But they don’t let the falls control what they are doing. They are moving in a new way. The falls do not define them. Parents don’t call others to say, “Hey, she keeps falling down!” No, they say, “Look! She’s learning to walk!”
We are learning to walk.
We are not defined by sin. We are defined by a new life we walk with Christ. We will stumble. We will fall. We will sin, but we walk in a new life. We live not under law, but under grace. We live resurrected with Christ from sin and death.
Your baptism is for each and every day with new life in Christ.
Grace is what governs our new life resurrected in Christ. We live into the resurrection of Christ one day at a time.
In our low points it is easy to hear the deceiver speak again, pulling us back to our old life. We feel those sins that plague us drawing us back.
But we have the risen Christ with us as we learn to walk in this new life. We grip the leg of our Lord as we fall and are raised back up again and again. Falling in his grace and walking again in grace in this new life. We are brought into this life where grace rules for good. For the good of you, me, our neighbor, and for the good of our relationship with God; God has welcomed us into this new land of grace.
We have left the land of sin for good.
Live into this freedom with confidence that sin will never define you, for Christ died and was raised to change all of that.
Live into the freedom of loving others as Christ loves you.
Live in gratitude that you have been given new life in Christ each and every day, in this life and the next.
You are raised with Christ today. You are raised tomorrow. You are raised forever to new life.
Thanks be to God. Amen