What will a baby do if it sees an interesting object? Reach for it.
What if the interesting object is something harmful for the child?
The child will reach for it none the less…
Because a small child cannot yet discern the good from the bad…it is driven by whatever it desires…and what it desires it will reach for and when able, crawl towards.
In a sense the baby’s will is held completely captive to what it desires…not to what is good.
It’s normal in a child and its why children are not left alone but must constantly be attended to by an adult.
A large group of Millennials were asked about their key life goals…vast majority (80%) said they wanted to be rich…half of them said fame was their key life goal.
This generation is supposed to be more socially conscious, less materialistic than previous generations…the fact is that in what drives human hearts…has not changed much throughout history.
Solomon was a 1000bc millennial and had the same goals…he reached for the shiny object regardless of whether it was good or not.
Reaching for the shiny object that catches the eye of desire…is the normal way of humanity…it always has been.
We do not naturally value what is valuable…And we do not naturally desire what is good…not in our fallen state
We need outside help for this…we need heart change.
*This year we are in the book of Romans…called the greatest letter ever written.
We are in a section of the letter (5-8) where Paul is showing us that the Christian life is a contrast between two kingdoms or epochs.
The present age (defeated and doomed but still dangerous) and the age to come (inaugurated but not consummated)
D-Day: The Allies broke the back of the enemy, but the war went on for some months.
Victory as it turns out was assured from D-day on…but the enemy remained dangerous…people still died.
Victory in Europe was inaugurated on June 6, 1944 when the allies landed on Normandy…but victory was consummated on May 8, 1945 when the War in Europe was officially over.
In the same way victory over sin was inaugurated on the Cross, and it will be consummated at the Lord’s return.
In the meantime…
Believers have been transferred from one regime to the other…the new situation has a new set of powers…powers that are present in fact but not present in full.
The practical question is how do we live now between D-day and V-Day.
The answer is found in those two terms we have looked at last week…the Indicative and Imperative:
God has accomplished for us what we could never do for ourselves…a decisive break with sin has occurred…the indicative.
If you are struggling with sin patterns as a believer it can be hard to see how true this is…but it is true.
Often people come to Christ and they suddenly become aware of things that are wrong in their lives…this often happens before anyone tells them or shows them its wrong…God has given them new insight.
In addition believers develop new desires for the good…I did.
Things I would not have enjoyed before, I suddenly found myself drawn to…this was not the result of outside forces…peer pressure, brain washing…it happened from the inside out.
But, although this true…we have been changed (the indicative)…that change must be nurtured, pursued (the imperative).
In Romans 6 we see this…
Indicative: what has been done for you
- 6: you were crucified with Christ
- 13: you have been brought from death to life
v.18: you have been set free
Imperative: what must be done by you (and is able to be done because of the new life in you)
- 12: don’t let sin reign
v.13: don’t offer yourselves to sin
- 19: offer yourselves to God
The imperative is based on the indicative…it is not justification by faith and then sanctification by mere human struggle.
The same grace and power of God that justified us is also the grace and power that sanctifies us.
But what this means in practice is that we must be careful to not fall off the wall into either ditch:
One ditch is “we can do it all by ourselves” the other ditch is “we can do nothing at all”
One ditch we can call the “moralism view” of Christian living…I can obey God by my own efforts.
My growth in faith is largely about “self-help”
This approach majors on the imperative….what “I must do”
The other ditch we can call the “magic view” of Christian living.
In this view the key to the victorious Christian life is simply letting our new redeemed natures take their course.
This view majors on the indicative and fails to take seriously the imperative.
Obedience is not automatic for the believer
In the Bible, believers are compared to trees that automatically produce good fruits…but this is an analogy…like all analogies…its imperfect.
Because real fruit trees don’t refuse the water that nourishes their roots, they don’t get up out of good soil and walk away poor soil only to wither at the root.
People, even Christians…do these kinds of things.
We tend to hate tensions…because they are hard to maintain.
But we must embrace the tension in our life now as Christ followers…the tension of the twin realities of: The indicative and the imperative.
I am free from slavery to sin: settled fact…I need to continually set my mind on this.
I must choose to live free from slavery to sin: these must be ongoing acts…I need to continually set my will towards this.
This morning we are in the second half of Romans 6…
Rom. 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Paul begins here, like he started the chapter…by asking and answering a rhetorical question.
The first question came out of what he said in 5:20 “Where sin increases grace increases more”
The question this raised was, in 6:1… “Well then should we sin more to get more grace?”
The answer was “Of course not, we died to sin.”
In 6:15 the question is “Should we continue to sin since we are not under law but under grace?”
This question is a response to what he said 6:14 “You are not under law but under grace”
The answer this time is “No way…don’t you know that you are a slave to whoever you obey?”
When we habitually “offer” ourselves to someone…we become slaves to them.
Though we are set free from sin…we can in effect become its slaves again if we give ourselves continually over to it.
Someone might conclude from what Paul has been saying that Grace removes the motivation to obey God.
If we are unconditionally loved and accepted because of Christ…then where is our motivation to obey?
The answer is in the question…because we are loved and accepted…that is our motivation.
In the same way…Some might conclude that since Paul has been hammering so hard on grace versus the law.
That obedience to God’s moral code is unnecessary for salvation…we need not pay any attention to what he given us in his word…the moral code has no bearing or meaning in out life.
The problem with that logic Paul says…is that the freedom to sin (reject the moral code) is not freedom at all.
Real freedom is the freedom to do the good and to want to do the good.
Sure we are not under the law of Moses in terms of it being a pathway to relationship with God.
But as the redeemed of the Lord, we want to do and we want to want…what is good to do and what is good to want…good news is…we can…because of Christ in us.
Our doing and our wanting can be and are being transformed.
This is real freedom.
We have been set free to obedience…free to love what God loves.
Now we return to the Indicative and imperative: The “what is” and the “what must be”
- 17, 18: Paul again gives the indicative…what is factually true about believers.
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Fact is…we have been set from sin
19: He will follow with the imperative…what must be becoming true about us.
Facts: you have been set free from sin
Acts: Offer the parts of your body (the total you) to righteousness not sin.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
Human minds think in analogy…to understand something new we use an analogy to something we are familiar with.
This is why learning is often exponential…once we learn one part of some subject we can pick up other parts more quickly…because we have something to compare the new with.
“This is like that…but different in this way.”
So he is using analogy to describe the two paths set before people.
It is an imprecise analogy so he says “I put this in human terms”
The imprecise analogy is “slavery”
Slavery to sin and slavery to righteousness
What makes the analogy helpful but a bit imprecise is that they would understand slavery in its normal sense…the absence of freedom.
That is what slavery to sin is…the absence of freedom.
But now he is using slavery to also describe freedom.
As slaves to righteousness we enjoy real freedom from the slavery to sin…you are not free to have sin as your master.
Yes…we can sin…but no…since we are slaves now to righteousness we cannot offer ourselves anymore as slaves to sin.
So…you are in slavery now to freedom.…you can see why the analogy is imperfect but powerful.
In college a friend of mine came to Christ…he had lived in slavery to sin for his entire life to that point
At the semester break (he had been a believer for a couple of months) he went home to Northern California by way of Las Vegas as was his normal pattern…he was going to enjoy “himself” some sin.
When he returned from break he was angry…he had tried to enjoy his old life…but could not…he left Las Vegas frustrated by his inability to enjoy sin…he could do it…that was still his choice.
He could find no satisfaction in it.
He had old patterns, old desires…but a new heart…a baby Christian heart…but the Holy Spirit lived in that heart…and the Holy Spirit spoiled his fun.
It is possible for the believer to wallow in the mud of his or her old life(my friend tried)…its just not possible anymore for that old life to satisfy.
But it never did…we know that old life never did in fact bring satisfaction…not really and certainly not compared to the satisfaction of righteousness.
My friend, it turns out, was miserable because now he had something to compare his old life to…a new life.
In his old life…the temporary gratification of sin was as good as it gets…but that good was never that good for him…he just didn’t know any different.
Sin had always tasted bad…but he had nothing to compare it to…now he did.
*That’s what Paul addresses next.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
It is ironic and tragic that unbelievers sometimes view Christians as being “in bondage to the rules of religion” and they perceive of themselves as being free.
Paul said they are in fact free…
They are free from the control of righteousness…which is a way of saying…they are not free at all…they free from freedom.
Freedom to do what whatever we want sexually has led to untold misery and loss of freedom.
Because living in shades of grey is never going to be a life of living color…only life in the light of God makes a life of colorful joy possible.
Conclusive research has shown that Men and woman who live in long-term, monogamous relationships…have more frequent and more satisfying sex lives.
Ironic that the sexual pleasure that people seek apart from God is found in the plans and purposes of God.
But not just sexual pleasure as God has designed…but relationships as a whole.
People who live in open and honest relationships at home, work, play…giving and receiving forgiveness and grace…have less stress, less disease, higher levels of happiness and report higher life and work satisfaction.
On and on it goes…
The idea that we are “obeying rules” in order to appease God is clearly false…not the gospel.
But the idea that obedience to the moral law is a form of bondage is also clearly wrong…or to use Paul’s analogy…yes, it is a form of slavery…but it is the only slavery that sets us free.
Free to enjoy life as God has designed it to be lived…and freedom from shame.
Shame is that other terrible price that sin demands…the ongoing after-taste of rebellion….the hidden shackles of sin is shame.
“What benefit did you reap from the things you are now ashamed of?”
The old argument that the shame of certain behaviors is the result of condemnation from others has lost all of its steam.
It was never true…but now it is obviously not the case.
It used to be said, and still is…but less so because it just fly anymore…that people only feel shame because others make them feel shame.
Our culture has widely embraced a number of actions and attitudes that are not biblical…many of these are celebrated not condemned.
Since this is true…when shame follows behavior that is accepted and celebrated that shame cannot be blamed on others.
It can only be explained by the fact that God has put “right and wrong” into our hearts.
Then there are those who have moved so far into slavery to sin that they are beyond shame..
The soul that has lost its ability to feel shame is in ruins…it has lost its ability to experience the good if it cannot see the bad.
This chapter finishes with a flourish…
- 22: The great freedom of being a slave to God.
-Having God as your master means you become like God in his character and receive his life…(a whole different kind of life)
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Then one of the more famous verses in the NT…v. 23..the gospel in a nutshell.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Three contrasts here:
- Two possible masters people can serve (sin or God)
- Two possible outcomes of that service (death or life)
- Two possible ways to obtain that outcome (a wage earned or a gift received)
Absolute freedom is an illusion…
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But as believers we are free to choose how we will live…as slaves to sin or to obedience.
We are free to choose who will become slaves to…
But we will all serve a master…and our choice of masters will impact all the choices that follow that choice.
A choice is a deliberation between alternatives, with a view to what is best.
Every choice…this donut or that apple for breakfast.
This angry word or that kind one…
Is a determination of what we think best.
“No Terry, Choosing that donut was not a better choice than an apple or that angry word was not a better choice than a kind word.”
No…but you deemed it best at the moment or you would not have eaten the donut or let the angry word pass through your lips.
This is an example of two “bests”…
In one sense the kind word is the absolute “best” but in the moment the angry word was deemed the actual “best” by me…because its the word I actually used.
So we choose what we think is best…we always do what makes sense to us to do.
The question is how do we become people for whom what is absolute best become our actual best?
How do we become people who more and more find that makes sense to us…is also that which makes sense to God? (wisdom)
We want to “grow up” in faith and in love.
We don’t want our will submerged to our sinful desire so that we are always reaching for the shiny object.
In fact we want our desires transformed so that what we want is the good…not the shiny objects.
Heb. 5:13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil
A baby will reach for things attract them…it could be a toy, or it could be a flame.
They have not learned to distinguish between mere “attraction” and the “good”…all they have in regards to “will” is impulse…to reach for, then when able, crawl towards whatever attracts them at the moment.
We are able to (indicative), and we must, develop beyond this (imperative)…to move to the good.
In our culture at large the over riding reason for doing anything is “I want to” and “It pleases me to”.
They believe this is their freedom…but it is in fact, the result of slavery to sin.
They have made sin their master…and now they are compelled only by desire not by the good.
The gospel turns us into people who move toward what is good for us personally(love for God) and for us as people in community (love for others).
Over time we are habitualizing moving towards the good…through spiritual disciples (constant us of the truth…learning and applying it)
An infant is servant to desire…hold up a new shiny object, the baby will drop what it has to grab for the new…it will do this on and on.
The adult spiritual infant is locked in this same discontent…enslaved by the sinful desire.
What I hope and pray happens this morning is that we “see”…that slavery to Christ is the way of freedom.
The infant’s “choice” is not a deliberation of good and evil…it is pure desire…to grab for what attracts in the moment.
We are not to remain infants in regards to our faith…the indicative is…we are not slaves to sin.
The imperative is…we must not live as slaves to sin.
*Believe what God has said is true about us
*Access the power he has given us
If you are a Christ follower…you have the opportunity to reshape your desire by the use of your will.
We can through constant use of the resources God has given us…his Word, His People, His Holy Spirit…learn to desire the good.
We do not have to live in the slavery of freedom to sin.
We can live in the freedom of slavery to righteousness.
This requires balancing the facts and the acts.
God has done this for you…God is doing this in you…AND YET you must choose to move towards him and deploy all of the resources he has made available to you.
Believe this is real: have a compelling vision of freedom
Access his resources: God’s word, God’s people, Holy Spirit